News / Africa

Gambian Woman Sworn In as Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor

Newly sworn-in ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda shares a laugh with her predecessor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (L) at the ICC, The Hague, Netherlands, June 15, 2012.
Newly sworn-in ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda shares a laugh with her predecessor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (L) at the ICC, The Hague, Netherlands, June 15, 2012.
Lisa Bryant
PARIS - Gambia's Fatou Bensouda was sworn in Friday as the International Criminal Court's new chief prosecutor, becoming the first African and woman to preside over the Hague-based tribunal.  Bensouda has rejected criticism of double standards in the ICC's prosecutions that have so far only targeted Africa.

Fifty-one-year-old Bensouda becomes only the second chief prosecutor of the nine-year-old International Criminal Court (ICC).  She takes over from Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, after serving as his number two for years.

In interviews, Bensouda has promised continuity - a continuity that human rights expert Anthony Dworkin, of the European Council on Foreign Relations, says the young court badly needs.

High Profile ICC Cases

  • Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir faces 10 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is free and in power.
  • Lord's Resistance Army commander Joseph Kony faces 33 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes. His whereabouts are unknown.
  • Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo faces four counts of crimes against humanity. He is in ICC custody awaiting trial.
  • Son of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, faces two counts of crimes against humanity. He has been arrested.
"There have been some controversies about the way it (the ICC) has developed in the last few years, and I think the most important thing now is to let it settle down and to approach the job in a professional way - and we can expect her to do that," said Dworkin.

The Netherlands-based ICC is the world's first permanent body that tries individuals accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.  But so far, all its cases deal with Africa.  That has generated criticism that the court is biased - criticism that both Bensouda and predecessor Ocampo reject.

"People have already answered that (the criticisms) quite effectively by saying it's working on behalf of victims in Africa, that most of these cases were in any case referred by the countries themselves, and so on," said Dworkin.  "But nevertheless, I think from a symbolic standpoint that an African chief prosecutor will send a very clear message that this is a court which works for universal justice and universal values."  

A longtime lawyer, Bensouda served as Gambia's attorney general and justice minister, and worked for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Her appointment comes as the ICC tries its first former head of state - Ivory Coast's former president, Laurent Gbagbo.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: charlotte rossette from: kampala
June 22, 2012 9:40 AM
if she could only live to her promises

by: Manuel from: London
June 18, 2012 3:52 PM
i cant wait to see former nigeria military head of state tried, Gowon for his crime against humanity and the people of biafra.

by: chris from: juba s sudan
June 16, 2012 7:27 AM
to me icc was only made for african. y there is no leader from the west.taik of george bush a bout irang he si free after

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs