Bensouda sworn in at ICC
The International Criminal Court’s first female and African Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, has formally taken office.
Bensouda, from The Gambia, was sworn in at a ceremony held at the seat of the Court at The Hague, Netherlands, on June 15.
She takes over from Argentine Luis Ocampo-Moreno, who has been at the helm since the establishment of the court in 2003.
She will serve nine years on the hot seat of a court that has been roundly criticised for mainly targeting Africans as perpetrators of human rights violations.
According to the court’s website, ICC president Sang-Hyun Song expressed confidence in Bensouda as “independent” and ready to deliver the goods.
“I am confident that her strong independent voice, legal expertise and genuine concern for human rights issues will contribute greatly to the continued fight against impunity”.
After the swearing-in solemnities Bensouda then made her first speech as the ICC chief prosecutor.
She pledged independence and impartiality – but hinted she would be inexorable with the war that Ocampo-Moreno started.
“The one thing which every one of you can rest assured of is that I will be the prosecutor of all the 121 state parties, acting in full independence and impartiality.
“Justice, real justice, is not a pick-and-choose system. To be effective, to be just and to be a real deterrent, the Office of the Prosecutor’s activities and decisions will continue to be based solely on the law and the evidence.”
She added: “For, as I speak, massive crimes continue to be committed in Darfur; Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army’s acts of violence continue unabated in central Africa; Bosco Ntaganda is still a fugitive of the ICC. In total, 11 arrest warrants remain outstanding.
“Nothing short of arresting all those against whom warrants have been issued will ensure that justice is done for millions of victims of the crimes committed by these fugitives.
The prosecutor highlighted the important role the court is playing in the globalised world of today.
“Today, the Court has become a global judicial institution that is part of the greater world system. We however need to focus our attention on consolidating and understanding its role and relevance in the management of violence through effective exercise of its mandate to investigate, prosecute and prevent massive crimes.
“Co-operation with, and support for the Court need to be consistently upheld and strengthened by all actors. In so doing we should not be guided by the words and propaganda of a few influential individuals whose sole aim is to evade justice but – rather – we should focus on, and listen to the millions of victims who continue to suffer from massive crimes.
“The return on our investment for what others may today consider to be a huge cost for justice is effective deterrence and saving millions of victims’ lives.”
She promised to look “for innovative methods for the collection of evidence to bring further gender crimes and crimes against children to the Court to ensure effective prosecutions of these crimes while respecting and protecting their victims”.
Analysts hope Bensouda’s tenure could mark a new era for the ICC, especially where Africans – perceived to be selective victims of the ICC – are concerned.
Many, however, doubt whether the change of the civil servant will mean anything.