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Mosotho gets top ICC post

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — Phakiso Mochochoko — a Lesotho national who grew up in Quthing — has been appointed the head of the International Criminal Court’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division (JCCD) in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).

Mochochoko, an alumnus of the National University of Lesotho’s law school who was raised by his grand parents, started his new role at the ICC on February 1.

His division’s role is to advise the ICC prosecutor on the admissibility of individual cases.

It also works with governments and international organisations to ensure their co-operation throughout the investigation process, and during and after trials.

Before his recent appointment Mochochoko had been a Senior Legal Adviser (Registry) at the International Criminal Court since 2004.

He was part of the ICC Advance Team set up to establish the court in The Hague in 2002.

Between 1984 and 1992 he worked as an attorney at Webber & Newdigate, a prominent law firm in Maseru.

In 1992 he was appointed as a trainer and co-ordinator for human rights NGOs in South Africa, a position he held until 1994.

He became involved with the process of establishing the ICC in 1994 in his capacity as Legal Counselor for the Permanent Mission of Lesotho to the United Nations.

He is a contributor to two books edited by Professor Roy Lee: The International Criminal Court: The Making of the Rome Statute, Issues, Negotiations, Results (1999) and The International Criminal Court: Elements of Crimes and Rules of Procedures and Evidence (2001).

He is also a joint contributor to Internationalised Criminal Courts and Tribunals edited by Cesare Romano, Andre Nollkaemper and Jann Kleffner. Mochochoko holds a BA Law and LLB Degrees from the National University of Lesotho as well as a Masters Degree in International Relations.

He also has a Post Graduate Diploma in International Law and Diplomacy from St John’s University, New York.

. . . The road from Quthing to The Hague

MASERU — Phakiso Mochochoko was just about to start his Form D when his father sat him together with his four siblings in the lounge of their family home in Sea Point.

It was a humble home but full of love.

“I am sending you to school so you can live a better life than we are living now,” his father said.

“This is your chance to make the best of your lives,” he added.

Although that session was one of the many that his father used to impart wise words to them, Phakiso vividly recalls it because of its timing.

His father, a former civil servant cum butcher, was struggling to get him, his brother and three sisters through school.

Money had become a problem but the old man was still striving to give Phakiso and his siblings a better education.

It’s been 38 years since that meeting but the words that his father spoke have been the torch for Phakiso.

Determined to succeed Phakiso says he hit the books hard as soon as he arrived at Makhaola Secondary School in Qacha’s Nek.

The wise words of his father have taken him far in life.

Now he holds a powerful position at the International Criminal Court’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

On February 1 he was appointed head of the ICC’s Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division (JCCD) in the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP).

The ICC is a court established by the United Nations to defend human rights and those who violate them.

His division’s role is to advise the ICC prosecutor on the admissibility of individual cases as well as work with governments and international organisations to ensure their co-operation throughout the investigation process, and during and after trials.

It is one of the most powerful jobs but Phakiso takes it with humility.

An alumnus of the National University of Lesotho’s law school who was raised by his grandmother in Quthing, Phakiso says sometimes he cannot believe that he has climbed so high up the ladder.

That’s precisely because of his modest upbringing.

The Mochochokos were not a poor family in the true sense of the word.

They had a habitable home in Maseru and their father was a small-time businessman running a butchery. 

Yet Phakiso, a first born, was not part of that home because as soon as he could walk on his own his parents shipped him to Quthing to stay with his grandmother.

There he was raised like all other village boys.

He learnt how to juggle school work with other family responsibilities early in life.

At daybreak he would find his way to the local primary school and at sunset he would be looking after his grandfather’s small head of cattle.

His dotting grandmother, who has since passed away, was his mother.

He learnt to milk cows and play murabaraba, a traditional “chess” game.

Yet even as a young herdboy he yearned for a better life.

What he wanted was to succeed.

Success to him did not mean becoming super rich but having enough money to lead a decent life.

So when other kids were playing games at night or sleeping Phakiso would bury himself in his books.

He wanted a better life than he was leading then.

“In those days you could never leave food in your plate like the kids of today do. There was never plenty to eat but that does not mean we starved,” he recalls during a telephone interview with the Sunday Express from his office in The Hague this week.

Phakiso moved from Quthing just as he was about to start his secondary school.

By that time his grades had convinced him that if he persevered he could go further in life.

His father’s wise words spoken on a 1973 night in their living room strengthened his resolve.

So through Makhaola Secondary School he cruised before making a detour at Peka High School on his way to NUL where he studied law.

The eight years he worked at Webber & Newdigate, a prominent law firm, as an attorney gave him a solid grounding in law.

Yet even at that time colleagues had already started taking note of his outstanding leadership skills.

Mark Webber, Phakiso’s partner in the practice, told a reporter in 2006 that “from the beginning he possessed a quiet, firm, but completely unthreatening authority”.

 If he says something contrary to what the hearer wants to be hearing, he does not come over as aggressive, and is therefore persuasive,” said Webber.

In 1992 he was appointed as a trainer and co-ordinator for human rights NGOs in South Africa, a job that entailed he had to bring people of diverse views together.

He became involved with the process of establishing the ICC in 1994 in his capacity as Legal Counselor for the Permanent Mission of Lesotho to the United Nations.

At the ICC Phakiso is part of the court that dictators all over the world loath with passion.

In their countries they can intimidate the courts and get away with heinous crimes against humanity.

But when it comes to the ICC, it’s a different ball-game altogether.

In 2009 the court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in connection with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan’s Darfur region. 

Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former warlord, is already on trial for crimes against humanity.

Phakiso said it is important for leaders to realise that no matter what crime they commit against their people they will still have to answer sooner or later. 

During his time at the ICC he has seen and heard horror stories about crimes committed against innocent people.

Phakiso, who is passionate about justice, turns 53 on September 4.

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