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ICC’s Bensouda: “War is much more costly than justice”

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ICC’s Bensouda: “War is much more costly than justice”

In the second of our two part interview with the ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda discusses crimes against women, the role of the UN Security Council, and the future of the court. 

Q: Compared to other crimes, how difficult is it for you as a prosecutor to prosecute, let’s say, gender-based crimes, crimes against women in particular? There is a gender activist in Sudan who insists that I ask you this question.

Right. Firstly, I want to emphasise that all crimes are serious – very, very serious. After all, we have said that these are crimes that shock
the conscience of humanity, whether they are war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. But I have, since assuming the office of prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, decided to lay a lot of emphasis on the effective investigation and prosecution of sexual and gender-based crimes.

In fact, this is one goal that I have elevated to a strategic goal of the office, because let’s face it, when these conflicts happen, the brunt of them are mostly borne by women and children. We have seen how, over the years, the commission of these crimes, sexual and gender-based, has been taken as just a normal event that happens when conflict happens. Well, it is not a normal event. Women should not have to suffer like this. Boys, girls should not have to suffer these kinds of crimes. My plan has always been to tackle this as a very serious strategic goal for the office, and I am right now putting a lot of emphasis on that.

Q: You were recently in Guinea where the junta leader, Moussa Dadis Camara, and others have been indicted in connection with the 2009 Conakry stadium massacre. Do you have any concerns about the modalities and structures in place domestically to successfully try these people?

Guinea is a member of the ICC. In fact, when the crimes of 28 September 2009 took place, and my office opened preliminary examinations to look into those crimes, Guinea came forward to say that they are in a position to investigate and prosecute themselves. This is what you want to see, this is what the ICC wants to see. Therefore, within that context of preliminary examinations, we have to continue to work with Guinea to see what they are doing, to see whether they’re investigating, to see whether they have the capacity to do so, especially to
see [if] they are genuinely investigating.

Q: Would you like to see, let’s say, the UN Security Council becoming more actively engaged in seeing that the ICC’s arrest warrants are executed?

In the case of those situations that have been referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council, like Libya and Sudan, I have been quite vocal already. When I do go back to the UN Security Council to report, I have called on the world body to do more to support the work of the ICC. Without that support, without the call for the arrest of the individuals that are wanted
for the ICC, well, I believe that this does not help the work of the ICC and I have continuously explained this to the Security Council and urged them to support the ICC.

Q: What are the major challenges or even obstacles that the ICC faces today?

The ICC has its challenges. I believe it will continue to be faced with obstacles as we try to ensure that we end impunity for these crimes. And these challenges include, of course, politicisation of the court. Unfortunately, whatever the court does, it is seen to have taken the step because of politics. And I have clearly said that the decisions I make have no political considerations. They will be based on the law, on the evidence and on the facts.

The other challenge is what we face during our investigations. When we are intervening, mostly it’s in the situation of ongoing conflicts or maybe where the conflict ended some time ago. This creates many challenges, for example, for the witnesses who we will have to speak to, as we cannot expose them, for the staff who have to go underground, even over issues of cooperation. Another big challenge is the cooperation itself. If the court does not have the cooperation that it needs, it cannot function effectively. The ICC was set up by the member states such that we can do our judicial work and they will cooperate to enable us to do that effectively. If that doesn’t happen, it creates a problem for the ICC.

Another challenge that I can easily talk about is resources. Unlike the Ad Hoc Tribunals, we are not dealing with one situation, we are dealing with several and each presents its own challenges. Each situation requires resources to be effective and if we do not have those resources, it poses a problem…

Q: And that’s because the ICC processes are very expensive.

I don’t think that justice is expensive. Justice can never be expensive. War is much more costly than justice.  NA

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