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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Bensouda: the African face of international justice
Sunday, 24 June 2012 00:20

Bensouda: the African face of international justice

Written by AFP
Fatou Bensouda takes oath of office at The Hague on Friday/COURTESY-ICC Fatou Bensouda takes oath of office at The Hague on Friday/COURTESY-ICC

Fatou Bensouda, the first woman and the first African to head the team of prosecutors at  International Criminal Court (ICC).

Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda, who reached the pinnacle of international justice Friday when she became chief prosecutor at the world’s war crimes court, has a reputation as a dogged investigator.

The 51-year-old one-time attorney in mainland Africa’s smallest nation, Bensouda is now the public face of the International Criminal Court, The Hague-based tribunal that was established a decade ago with a brief to bring those accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice.

Bensouda, the first woman and the first African to head the team of prosecutors after serving as predecessor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s number two since 2004, has vowed to work for justice for Africans.

She has already carved out a reputation in legal circles for her dogged investigations of atrocities such as the Rwandan genocide and the use of child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The court has been the target of widespread criticism from within Africa as every one of the 25 suspects who have been the target of investigations or prosecutions to date have hailed from there.

The list includes Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and the late Libyan dictator Moaner Gaddafi while Ivory Coast’s toppled leader Laurent Gbagbo is currently awaiting trial in the Netherlands.

But, rather than worrying about the status of the suspects, Bensouda says she sees her task as an opportunity “to give victims the voice they need”.

“I don’t think about the leaders we are pursuing,” she told AFP in a recent interview.

“I am working for the victims of Africa, they are African like me. That’s where I get my inspiration and my pride.”

Bensouda has spent the last eight years as the number two to Argentina’s Moreno-Ocampo, most of that time heading the ICC’s prosecution division.

She first came to prominence in international legal circles as a trial attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, and later as its senior legal advisor.

Since her election as the ICC’s deputy prosecutor in August 2004, she has been involved in some of the court’s most high profile cases.

Her CV includes the ICC’s first successful prosecution in March when Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga was found guilty of abducting children as young as 11 and forcing them to fight.

The daughter of a civil servant and a housewife, Bensouda grew up in Banjul, the capital of Gambia, a tiny English-speaking west African country which borders Senegal.

She graduated from the Nigerian Law School in Lagos, returning to Gambia to begin a career in 1987 as a public prosecutor.

In 1998, she was appointed Gambia’s justice minister and attorney-general before quitting to run the International Bank for Commerce as its general manager in Banjul for two years.

But she said: “It was not my thing, I missed the court.”

Bensouda entered the international justice arena in May 2002 as a trial attorney for the ICTR prosecutor’s office, taking to task those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which some 800,000 people were slaughtered.

The mother of two sons who have completed their studies in architecture and finance, one living in Banjul and the other in the United States, Bensouda also adopted a sister’s daughter, Saddy, 27.

Her own father was polygamous. Asked how many brothers or sisters she has, she replied: “I come from a big family, let’s say it that way.”

 

About ICC

The International Criminal Court (commonly referred to as the ICC ) is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression (although it cannot, until at least 2017, exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression). It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, entered into force[5]—and it can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The Court's official seat is in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings may take place anywhere.        -Wikepedia

 

 

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