News / Africa

New ICC Chief Prosecutor Discusses Work of Tribunal

Fatou Bensouda is chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC)Fatou Bensouda is chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC)
x
Fatou Bensouda is chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC)
Fatou Bensouda is chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC)
Peter Clottey
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says she rejects any suggestion that the tribunal has unfairly targeted African countries.

Fatou Bensouda, who became chief prosecutor last June after eight years as deputy chief prosecutor, said in an interview it will take a lot of work to correct suspicions of bias against Africa.

“Changing this perception of course will not depend solely on myself, it will depend on other actors, it will depend on the organs of the court, it will depend on states, parties [and] it will depend on international partners. But, I do intend to play my part,” said Bensouda, a native of Gambia.

She blamed accused persons who have committed international crimes for spreading allegations that the ICC targets Africans.

 “I think what we need to do here is to move the focus away from those who perpetuate these crimes. They perpetuate these crimes and they send this propaganda that ICC is targeting Africa, and by so doing, the focus that we should have on the victims of their crimes is moved away,” Bensouda said.

“The ICC is working with Africa and in fact Africa has been coming towards the ICC from the time of establishing this court from the very beginning. In fact this idea that Africa is being targeted was demystified, by the recent referral we received from Mali.”

In July, Mali’s minister of justice, Malick Coulibaly, led a delegation to The Hague to request officially that the ICC to investigate crimes allegedly committed by Islamists in the West African country’s north. The request cited international crimes which include summary executions of soldiers, rape of women and young girls, massacres of civilians, the use of child soldiers and pillage.

So far 33 African countries have ratified the Rome Statutes that established the ICC. They contribute financially to the operations of the court.

“Individual African countries have been cooperating very well with the ICC. We hardly have a request for assistance going out to African countries that does not meet with a positive response,” Bensouda said.

                    US and international justice

The Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of Defense for Rule of Law and Detainee Policy says Washington is playing a lead role in ensuring that those who commit international crimes face justice.

“We play a very similar role to [the one] we’ve played throughout recent history, and that’s a leadership role, in making sure that we don’t live in a society where criminals can continue with their behavior with impunity. But, it’s one that also makes sure that when we bring them to justice, we do it in a way that elevates the rule of law,” said William Lietzau.

Lietzau rejects allegations that the United States is not fully committed to the work of the Hague-based International Criminal Court. The United States is not a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the ICC.

Some experts on the ICC have said Washington’s refusal to sign weakens the power of the court. But, Lietzau disagrees.

“I don’t think that is an appropriate criticism of our role with respect to international criminal justice in general,” he said.

“The questions the United States has about the ICC are related to the structure of the court and the formulation that was chosen in the Rome treaty. That does not mean we have any lesser commitment to justice or the rule of law.”

Lietzau said the U.S. works with the ICC to help the Hague-based court carryout its mandate in a way that respects the rule of law.

“The ICC’s work of brining wrongdoers to justice is something that we are very much committed to and we will continue to support that work as we do with other tribunals. I don’t think there is any country that has invested as much in international criminal justice as the United States,” he said.

Lietzau also spoke about organizational links between the ICC and the U.N. Security Council, which can ask the tribunal to prosecute certain international crimes.

“There are legitimate questions as to various aspects of the courts structure and role among other international organizations,” he said. “We don’t want to see the International Criminal Court used for purposes of promoting a political agenda. But, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that criminals are not allowed to commit grievous international with impunity.” 

                    Heads of state immunity

The chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) says heads of state should not be immune from criminal prosecution if they commit international crimes.

Brenda Hollis says current international law now stipulates that national leaders have immunity from prosecution unless they are charged by an international court with crimes against humanity.

“I think that the law has evolved at a point that if it’s an international crime and an international court then that head of state would not have immunity. Regardless of whether he was a sitting head of state at the time he was charged and tried or he was a former head of state,” said Hollis.

Critics have said the International Criminal Court (ICC) has often targeted mostly Africans. One example sometimes cited was the court’s arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. The government of Sudan has rejected the charges.

But, in an interview, Hollis denies accusations that Africans are being targeted by the ICC.                  

Sudan is not a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the ICC. But despite this, the U.N. Security Council can still refer a case to the chief prosecutor of the ICC to investigate alleged international crimes involving Sudan.

The Security Council’s referral about the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region, where thousands have died, led to the ICC investigation and the subsequent indictment of Mr. Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hollis expressed her views about Security Council referrals and their impact on claims of immunity by government leaders.

“That referral imbues the International Criminal Court for that case with the authority and with the consent of members of the United Nations because when the United Nations Security Council refers that case to the ICC, it is acting on behalf of all member states of the United Nations,” Hollis continued.

“For those heads of state who are members of the United Nations that would be, in my view, an implicit waiver of immunity, by virtue of their membership of the United Nations. I think that is the current state of the law.”

                    Crime of Aggression

Liechtenstein’s top diplomat to the United Nations says he is working with African countries to ratify an amendment on so-called crimes of aggression. The amendment gives the ICC authority to investigate and prosecute such crimes. It was approved by a Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2010.

Legal experts describe the amendment as a breakthrough in the development of international criminal law. Thirty states must ratify the amendment for it to come into force. So far, only two have signed.

“We are working with our African partners, and we are organizing next year a workshop in Botswana with the Botswana government to which African states would be invited,” said Ambassador Christian Wenaweser.

“We would simply explain the outcome of the Kampala agreement. We’d explain the legal challenges, [and the] ways of ratifying and implementing it. We hope that this will push the effort forward.”          
                           
Officials say for the first time since the Nuremberg and Tokyo military tribunals following World War II, the there is a possibility that individual leaders who plan and launch military aggression against other countries will be subject to prosecution by an international court.

Ambassador Wenaweser said he is hopeful that African countries will soon ratify the amendment on the crime of aggression so it can be implemented.

He expressed concerns, however, that some leaders are not aware that they can take action today.

“A lot of people misunderstand [and believe] that it’s not possible to ratify now; [that you can only do so] in 2017, when in fact the opposite is true. You have to ratify it now in order for it to enter into force in 2017,” said Wenaweser.

Proponents of the amendment say the campaign has been hindered by a lack of support from powerful nations. Wenaweser said he will continue to push for its passage.

He also outlined his expectations for next year’s workshop in Botswana on the amendment.

“I hope we have a very good turnout of African states and [that] we will be able to reach [out to] people in ministries who are in charge of this.  We will tell them this is how you can do it, this is how you can move forward, and they will see what their peers are doing,” said Wenaweser.

                    ICC Challenges

The president of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute says she is working to restore political support for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“Yes, there are concerns that there is less political enthusiasm about the court right now, and one of the reasons is quite obvious. The court is 10 years old so a lot of countries who in principle are very committed, they just take the court for granted. A lot of countries do not realize how much political support the court still needs,”  said Ambassador Tiina Intelmann.

“They are forgetting that we are really in the business of trying to bring perpetrators of atrocities to justice. And it just so happens that very often the perpetrators of such crimes are people who have held or are holding high positions [in government]. So, by definition, political support is necessary because these issues, besides being legal, are also political.” 

Her comments follow at a two-day conference in Nuremberg, Germany as part of activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the ICC.

Some members of the African Union (AU) have expressed concern that the international court appears to be unfairly targeting Africans. This led to the AU’s decision to advise its members not to cooperate with the Hague-based court following the refusal of the ICC to suspend its indictment and subsequent arrest warrants against Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir.

The court accused the Sudanese leader of committing human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in Darfur - charges Khartoum has rejected. Analysts say tension between the AU and the ICC has reduced political support for the court in Africa.

Officials of the ICC say the court faces financial challenges that need to be addressed if the court is to continue prosecutions for international crimes.

“Yes, the court faces financial challenges, not least because its workload is increasing and that is the problem,” says Intelmann. “Ideally, the court should be the last resort that is there, that serves as a deterrent, and that encourages states to do their domestic prosecutions. But it’s mostly the failure of states themselves to prosecute that brings all these cases to the ICC.”

“There is a reasonable understanding right now about the budget that the court would have. It’s also clear that at no point in time will the court have an unlimited budget,” Intelmann said, noting that signatory nations to the court are obligated to fund its core activities.
Clottey interview with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
Clottey interview with ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensoudai
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


Clottey interview with Ambassador Christian Wenaweser
Clottey interview with Ambassador Christian Wenaweseri
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X


Clottey interview with Ambassador Tiina Intelmann
Clottey interview with Ambassador Tiina Intelmanni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yg tan from: Singapore
October 21, 2012 9:12 PM
On what ground does the US has the morality to speak for ICC when your country is the ONLY country that goes destroying, invading, killing and so on, all over ther world.

Just be a signatory to ICC and see the outcome!

Too much brutality has been committed by the US and its allies and yet the ICC remains idle doing nothing - thats why no body can wholeheartedly support the ICC

Personally, I agree with most African nations' view of ICC

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs