FATOU BENSOUDA TOOK OFFICE as the new prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at a swearing-in ceremony in The Hague on 14 June. A Gambian national, Bensouda (pictured above) is expected to build on the ICC’s first 10 years and consolidate the Court’s position as the world’s foremost instrument in the fight against impunity for grave crimes.
Bensouda served, since 2004, as the deputy to the former chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, during which time she headed the prosecution division of the Office of the Prosecutor.
The Gambian was elected to the position of prosecutor at the annual meeting of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), the ICC’s governing body, in New York in December 2011.
Prior to joining the ICC, Bensouda served as a senior legal advisor and head of the legal advisory unit of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where she had previously worked as a legal adviser. She had also held a number of high-level positions in the public and private sectors in The Gambia.
Bensouda’s swearing-in was attended by ICC judges; the ASP president, Tiina Intelmann; diplomats; other distinguished guests and civil society representatives.
The new prosecutor will impact almost every aspect of the ICC for years to come as she will take responsibility for all ongoing and future investigations.
This includes the cases currently before the ICC in relation to situations in Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur (Sudan), DRCongo, Kenya, Libya and Uganda, as well as preliminary examinations of potential investigations in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.
Of immediate concern will be the sentencing and reparations phase of the trial of Thomas Lubanga, on whom the ICC’s first verdict was delivered in March 2012.
“From Goma to Darfur and beyond, the need to end impunity for the world’s gravest crimes is increasing, and Prosecutor Bensouda will have tremendous responsibility for bringing justice to all parts of the world,” said William Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC, a global network of more than 2,500 NGOs in 150 countries advocating for a fair, effective and independent ICC.
Bensouda’s election as prosecutor was the culmination of a search process that began in the spring of 2011. Of 52 individuals initially identified by the Search Committee, eight were interviewed before four were recommended as potential nominees. Informal consultations among States Parties facilitated by the ASP president then yielded to an agreement to select Bensouda as the nominee. She was formally nominated by The Gambia and was co-sponsored by 66 ICC States Parties, leading to her election by acclamation in December 2011.