Gambian heads up International Criminal Court

Fatou Bensouda will be the first African to hold a top post at the ICC, based in The Hague.

Fatou Bensouda has been appointed head of the ICC (Picture: Max Koot Studio)

The Gambian’s appointment was unanimously approved at a meeting of the legislative body of the ICC, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), in New York on December 19th – making her the future public face and chief strategist of the tribunal responsible for investigating the world’s worst atrocities.

Bensouda beat three other short-listed candidates: Andrew Cayley, the British co-prosecutor at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal in Cambodia; Tanzania’s chief justice Mohamed Chande Othman; and Canadian war crimes specialist Robert Petit.

The African Union (AU) has been a fierce critic of outgoing ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo from Argentina, claiming he focused almost exclusively on Africa as if atrocities did not take place elsewhere and labeling it a “neocolonial tool.”

Mrs Bensouda’s manner is very different from Moreno-Ocampo’s publicity-seeking style but, having served as his deputy, she is likely to bring continuity.  In a BBC World Service interview she explains her thoughts on the African cases.  In four of them — involving the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda and the Cote d’Ivoire — the governments themselves called in the court. Two cases, involving Sudan and Libya, were initiated on instructions from the United Nations Security Council. And only one case, involving six suspects linked to post-election violence in Kenya, was initiated by the prosecutor’s office. Some groups in Kenya continue to call for the trials to be held at home.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan is wanted by the court on charges that include genocide and the AU insists that its member countries ignore the court’s arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir. Charges against Colonel Gaddafy were annulled with his death.

“My origin, being an African, has nothing to do with my mandate,” said Bensouda at a news conference after her election. Gambian newspaper The Point welcomed her appointment saying it had put the small country on the international map.

Fatou Bensouda’s rise to prominence

Born 31 January 1961 in Banjul.

Studied law in Lagos, Nigeria.

Deputy Prosecutor in charge of the ICC’s prosecution division since 2004.

Bensouda has previously served as Solicitor-General of Gambia, as well as Attorney-General and Minister of Justice under President Yahya Jammeh.

She has held positions of Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Bensouda has been named by Jeune Afrique magazine as the 4th most Influential Personality in Africa in the Civil Society Category and one of the 100 most Influential African Personalities.

Find out more with the following back issues of the Africa Research Bulletin

Pre-Trial Hearings (Vol. 48 Number 10 p. 19021)

ICC Hearings begin (Vol. 48 Number 9 p. 18988)

William Ruto dismissed (Vol. 48 No.8 p. 18940)

Ocampo’s new evidence (Vol. 48 No. 8 p. 18953)

Ocampo six (Vol. 48 No. 7 p. 18913)

ICC Trials shift nearer (Vol. 48 no. 6 p. 18877)

Preliminary ICC hearings (Vol. 48 no. 4 p. 18805)

Ocampo six case to go ahead (Vol 48 no. 3 p. 1878)

Anti-ICC sentiment (Vol. 48 No. 1 pl 18701)

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