20 June 2012

Gambia: Bensouda and the ICC


At last, our very own Fatou Bensouda has taking the oath of office, thus becoming the first African and female prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

She now has to hunt for perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Whilst we join the rest of the country and the African continent at large to thank her once again for the achievement, we also deem it prudent to bring to the fore the bitter truth of what lies ahead in her new assignment.

This is undoubtedly one of the most important positions within the ICC - and its most public. It comes as no surprise that Africa has followed the entire process from her election to swearing-in as ICC prosecutor closely.

Expectations are still high as African states form one of the largest signatory blocs to the Rome Statute, and all of the ICC's seven situations deal with crimes committed on the continent.

The fact that all the ICC's cases are in Africa, together with fundamental concerns about the UN Security Council's role in the court's work, have resulted in criticisms that the ICC is a neo-colonialist exercise that unfairly targets the continent. Relations between the court and some states, as well as the African Union, are now strained.

Of utmost concern is that several African governments, including states parties to the Rome Statute, have refused to cooperate with the court in the arrest and surrender of suspects.

Expectations are high that Fatou Bensouda will change this direction of the court for the better, by manifesting in action that the court is not against Africa but that Africa stands against the crimes it is set up to prosecute.

In a nutshell, the appointment of an African prosecutor should help to deflect some of this criticism and should help to reduce the tensions between Africa and the ICC.

We are convinced that Fatou Bensouda has the qualification and expertise to deliver to expectations. She has been deputy prosecutor at the ICC for several years and before that was senior legal adviser at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

She has also been Attorney General in Gambia. She therefore possesses the zeal to go through the rigours of a tertiary work. We therefore hope that she will prove Africa correct.

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