Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: Online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

ENCORE!

Art, sex, money, memory and manga

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Spat over Iran's UN ambassador hampers thawing relations with US

Read more

FOCUS

China trade deal: Is Taiwan's identity under threat?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Call it a caretaker government'

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria's Battles

Read more

DEBATE

Nigeria's Battles (part 2)

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Pornography without borders is key benefit of EU, says French MEP

Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • Pro-Russia separatists ‘seize’ Ukrainian armoured vehicles

    Read more

  • Acclaimed Belgian conservationist shot in eastern Congo

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Rescue effort under way as ferry sinks off S. Korean coast

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

  • Syria 'torture' photos silence UN Security Council members

    Read more

  • Paris laboratory loses deadly SARS virus samples

    Read more

  • More than 100 schoolgirls kidnapped in northeast Nigeria

    Read more

  • New York police disband unit targeting Muslims

    Read more

  • 'Miracle girl' healthy after seven-organ transplant in Paris

    Read more

  • Paris police memo calling for Roma eviction ‘rectified’

    Read more

  • Burgundy digs into France's bureaucratic 'mille-feuille'

    Read more

  • French court drops ‘hate speech’ case against Bob Dylan

    Read more

  • Algeria rights crackdown slammed ahead of election

    Read more

  • Iraq closes notorious Abu Ghraib jail over security fears

    Read more

  • Berlusconi sentenced to community service for tax fraud

    Read more

  • In ‘Tom at the Farm’, Xavier Dolan blends Hitchcock and homoeroticism

    Read more

  • US to mark one year since Boston Marathon bombing

    Read more

  • India's Supreme Court establishes third gender category

    Read more

  • Paris hotel that hosted Holocaust survivors shuts for renovation

    Read more

Africa

Gambia's Fatou Bensouda poised to lead ICC

©

Text by Gaëlle LE ROUX

Latest update : 2011-12-05

Gambian jurist Fatou Bensouda (pictured) is the only remaining candidate to become the International Criminal Court's next prosecutor. Her experience and background could help increase the legitimacy of the Hague in Africa.

Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda, currently the International Criminal Court’s deputy prosecutor, is expected to take over the institution’s top job when member countries hold an election in New York on December 12. She would succeed chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and, observers say, could help boost the legitimacy of the ICC in Africa.

The last remaining candidate for the post, 50-year-old Bensouda’s nomination was met with a chorus of praise from international rights groups last week.

"She is an experienced person, who is collected, calm and knows how to keep her cool,” said Brigid Inder, director of the Hague-based Women's Initiative for Gender Justice, a group that seeks an “effective and independent” ICC.

Ali Ouattara, another ICC advocate in Ivory Coast, said Bensouda was a “very attentive, very open and very pragmatic” lawyer. The sentiment was shared by Patrick Baudouin, honorary president of the International Federation of Human Rights (IFHR). “She’s a fine jurist. There’s good reason for the broad consensus over her nomination,” Baudouin said.

However, some isolated voices of dissent have emerged. Some observers questioned her ability to manage the non-legal aspects of the high-profile job. Once confirmed, Bensouda will take office in June for a period of nine years.

‘Maturing along with the ICC’

Bensouda, a native of Gambia, has held the post of deputy chief prosecutor for the past seven years and boasts a distinguished legal career.

The leading expert on International Maritime Law in her country, she joined the Gambian Ministry of Justice in the late 1980s and rose to become Minister of Justice in 1998. In 2002, she travelled to Rwanda to work for the United Nations-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

For two years, Fatou Bensouda investigated the genocide and war crimes that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives in the small East African country. She served as the ICTR’s deputy prosecutor, as well as legal advisor and trial attorney.

Bensouda made her debut at the ICC in 2004 as Moreno-Ocampo’s deputy. “She has matured with the ICC,” said the IFHR’s Patrick Baudouin. “The court began its work cautiously, too cautiously, perhaps. But for past two or three years, it has turned it up a notch, bringing charges against [Sudanese President] Omar Bashir and [former Ivory Coast president Laurent] Gbagbo. Bensouda has emerged alongside the institution.”

While she has helped the ICC impose its authority on African strongmen, some former colleagues have questioned her firmness as a boss. “Bensouda is very intelligent, certainly brighter than Moreno-Ocampo,” said one former ICC colleague, who wished to remain anonymous. “But she is a bad manager.”

The former ICC colleague added that the chief prosecutor is constantly torn between political pressures, diplomatic necessity and purely legal responsibilities. “[Bensouda] had a tendency to skirt responsibilities in times of crisis… Moreno-Ocampo has the ability to move heaven and earth to get what he wanted - wants. Bensouda doesn’t,” the lawyer said.

The ‘African’ consensus

The comparisons to Moreno-Ocampo were inevitable, but observers said Bensouda had one clear advantage over her predecessor: being African. “There was wide consensus that the next chief prosecutor should be from Africa,” said Christian Wenaweser, the Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the UN, who chairs the ICC selection process.

The court has been accused in African circles of embodying a neo-colonial “white justice”. “Bensouda will bring some legitimacy to the ICC in Africa. Especially since she speaks English and French, there will be fewer language barriers in the continent than with Moreno-Ocampo [who does not speak French],” said Ali Ouattara.

Others, however, were less optimistic about Bensouda’s ability to win over Africans. “It’s not a question of nationality. In all the institutions where Western and African countries co-exist, relations are bound to be unbalanced,” argued Lovemore Madhuku, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Harare, in Zimbabwe.

Bensouda herself has said she would not change her established approach to chasing African war criminals. “I don’t think about the leaders we pursue,” she told the French AFP news agency on Dec. 3. “I work for the victims in Africa; those women are like me, that's who I draw my inspiration and my pride from.”
 

Date created : 2011-12-05

  • Ivory Coast

    Former Ivorian strongman Gbagbo faces ICC judges

    Read more

  • Sudan

    ICC mulls warrant request for Sudanese minister

    Read more

  • Libya

    Gaddafi's son could face ICC trial in Libya

    Read more

Comments

COMMENT(S)