Sunday, April 15, 2012

ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda at BU

The Honorable Fatou Bensouda from the Gambia and recently elected Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) addressed an audience at Boston University on 13 April 2012.  After a short speech on the purpose of the ICC and explaining that she would take over as the new Chief Prosecutor in June 2012 she responded to questions from the audience.  The first question was from a lady from Sri Lanka who began to read a full-page typed statement about the need for the ICC to take action in Sri Lanka but was told by Mrs. Bensouda that since Sri Lanka was not a member of the ICC they couldn't do anything unless the case had been referred from the UN (the UN has not referred the case to the ICC).  There were a couple other people in the audience wearing t-shirts against the government of Sri Lanka as well.  Some questions were about the scope of the ICC (can only investigate crimes that took place after its creation in 2002), what crimes it could investigate (serious crimes like genocide), and if it had demonstrated any deterrence effect (she didn't have a convincing answer), but the questions kept coming back to Africa.

In the course of the questions an African in the front row asked why the ICC was only dealing with African cases and what she, as an African, would do about it.  Mrs. Bensouda responded that the ICC is not anti-African and the ICC came into existence because of African nations and their support. She continued that Africa constitutes the largest block of countries in the ICC and their support was critical for the formation of the ICC, otherwise it might have taken longer to solidify. The first ratifier of the ICC was Senegal and the first countries to refer cases to the ICC were African.  And for the most part the people referring cases to the ICC are African countries.  In the cases where the UN had referred cases to the ICC African states were present on the Security Council and voted in favor.  Mrs. Bensouda summed up her argument by saying that the most important part of this are the victims, African victims, and this has been going on too long and we need to protect Africans.  "We can not go on protecting the perpetrators, the victims are also African."  During the question and answer period Mrs. Bensouda also mentioned that the ICC is investigating cases in South American and Afghanistan.

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