The ICC's Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has had a few setbacks recently. The decision to drop the charges against Kenyan President Uhurru Kenyatta was seen as a major blow to the court’s credibility. Moreover, some African leaders have been very vocal about their distrust of the ICC, deeming it racist. In an interview with FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman, Fatou Bensouda defends the International Criminal Court against these accusations and speaks about the court's ongoing investigations.
Simone Gbagbo has been sentenced to 20 years in jail by an Ivorian court in March. Nonetheless, the Côte d’Ivoire’s former First Lady is still wanted by the ICC which charged her with four counts of crimes against humanity in relation to the deadly violence that followed Côte d'Ivoire's 2010 presidential election. “My office has insisted that the case is still admissible before the ICC and that she should be handed over to the court”, says Fatou Bensouda. The Ivory Coast government has appealed this decision and an appeals chamber is set to rule on whether Abidjan will indeed have to transfer the former First Lady.
The Court has also been accused of showing leniency towards President Ouattara’s side but ICC chief prosecutor Bensouda is still determined to investigate crimes committed by his supporters during the chaos following the disputed 2010 elections. “My office has been very clear that all parties to the conflict, all sides to the conflict will not be spared”, she says. “We couldn’t start both sides at the same time”, she explains, but “hopefully, in the middle of this year, we would start the investigations”. If this happens, it means the probes will occur as the country will be gearing up for the presidential election scheduled in October.
She added that even though Palestine is becoming a full member of the ICC on April 1st, this will not influence the preliminary probe that she has already launched into potential war crimes during the Gaza War last summer. She insisted that both sides would be investigated and regretted that Israeli authorities were not cooperating with the Court until now.
She also addresses the allegations of racism or neo-colonialism made by African heads of state against the ICC. “We are not in Africa investigating by choice”, she points out. “We have been requested by countries from Africa to come and investigate”.