High Expectations for New International Criminal Court Prosecutor

Press Release
June 15, 2012

High Expectations for New International Criminal Court Prosecutor

Fatou Bensouda Takes Over Reins As Second Ever ICC Chief Prosecutor, Tasked with Delivering Justice for Forgotten Victims

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today welcomes the inauguration of Fatou Bensouda as the second International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor, saying her nine-year term signals a new era in international justice.

Ahead of taking office, Bensouda set out a number of priorities that she will pursue during her term, including reviewing the quality and efficiency of investigations and prosecutions, developing a strong gender policy and clarifying the process through which the office selects where it will conduct investigations.

"These are very welcome commitments," said Marek Marczyński, Amnesty International's head of international justice. "The Office of the Prosecutor should be constantly evolving and taking measures to ensure that the ICC has the biggest possible impact in the fight to end impunity."

Bensouda will be sworn into office on June 15. After serving as the ICC's deputy prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004, Gambian Bensouda replaces the current chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo.

"Prosecutor Ocampo has achieved a great deal in establishing the Office of the Prosecutor over the last nine years and hands over a large workload of seven investigations and a number on-going cases," said Marczyński.

Amnesty International has previously expressed concerns that some aspects of the prosecution strategy were too restrictive -- in particular, the ICC's first case against Thomas Lubanga, who was only charged with enlisting and recruiting child soldiers. Other allegations, including sexual violence, were not fully investigated.

"Bensouda has the potential to bring a more robust approach to the ICC's prosecution strategy," Marczyński added. "We are hopeful that the new policy developments will help advance worldwide public support for the ICC."

A number of significant political challenges await the prosecutor. In recent years, the African Union has taken measures that undermine the ICC – including refusing to cooperate with the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir – citing concerns that the court is only targeting Africans.

"The Prosecutor has already made strong statements requesting the support of African states," Marczyński said. "We hope African states will provide her and the ICC with their fullest support to deliver justice to victims around the world."

Meanwhile, other states including France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom are insisting on budget cuts that threaten to undermine the ICC's work.

"States must not be allowed to undermine the independence of the Office of the Prosecutor through the budget process," Marczyński added. "The court must be given sufficient resources to champion justice for those victims who have been forgotten or ignored by their own authorities."

The ICC is currently investigating crimes in Central African Republic, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya and the Darfur region of Sudan and Uganda. It is examining allegations of crimes in seven other situations in order to determine whether to open investigations.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.