Fatou Bensouda

Gambian lawyer and judge, Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2012–2021)

Fatou Bom Bensouda (/fɑːˈtuː bɛnˈsoʊdə/; née Nyang; born 31 January 1961) is a Gambian lawyer has been the International Criminal Court's (ICC) chief prosecutor since June 2012, after having served as a Deputy Prosecutor in charge of the Prosecutions Division of the ICC since 2004 and having been minister of justice of The Gambia.

Fatou Bensouda, 2008

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  • The Prosecutor is satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into the situation in Palestine under article 53(1) of the Rome Statute, and that the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza (“Occupied Palestinian Territory”). The Prosecutor nonetheless requested the Pre-Trial Chamber to confirm the scope of the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in Palestine, under article 19(3).1 Such a ruling will presumptively resolve this question for the purpose of the Court’s future proceedings—according to the principle of res judicata, subject to articles 19(2) and (4)—and place the conduct of further proceedings by the Court on the soundest legal foundation. 2. As the Prosecution recalled, this course of action was taken, exceptionally, in light of the uniquely complex legal and factual issues associated with the Occupied Palestinian Territory and contrary views expressed.
  • 3. By seizing the Pre-Trial Chamber of this matter, under article 19(3), the Prosecution sought a forum in which the legal representatives of victims, the referring State (Palestine), Israel, and other States and interested parties could assist in the proper determination of the presented question. The Prosecution expresses its appreciation to the Chamber for convening such a process,5 and to the numerous legal representatives of victims,6 States Parties, intergovernmental organisations, and amici curiae, who have answered this call.... Given this inclusive approach—aiming to ensure, through a fair and transparent process, that the Court reaches a proper determination of jurisdiction, and where the Prosecution itself acknowledged the need to ventilate and resolve the divergence of legal opinions by bringing this matter on its own volition to the Chamber—the adversarial tone of a small minority of participants would seem to be misplaced. The Prosecution approached this situation with the independence and impartiality required by article 42 of the Statute, as it always does.

Quotes about edit

  • The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said last month that there was a “reasonable basis” to open a war crimes probe into Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip as well as Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank. She also asked the court to determine whether she has territorial jurisdiction before proceeding with the case. Her request to the court, which exceeded the 30-page limit, was accompanied by a request to extend the page limit to 110 pages, citing “the unique and complex factual and legal circumstances in this situation.” ... According to Haaretz, the ruling means a decision on Bensouda pushing ahead with the case will be delayed by several months. International law expert Nick Kaufman wrote.. that the decision was a “slap in the face” of Bensouda
  • Israel, which is not a member of the ICC, has said the court has no jurisdiction and accused Bensouda of being driven by anti-Semitism... There was no immediate reaction from Bensouda. But she recently told The Times of Israel that accusing her of anti-Semitism was “particularly regrettable” and “without merit... I, along with my Office, execute our mandate under the Rome Statute with utmost independence, objectivity, fairness and professional integrity. We will continue to meet our responsibilities as required by the Rome Statute without fear or favor,” she said,
  • Bensouda (the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor since June 2012) found the alleged crimes by the CIA and U.S. military “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” but were “part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.” ... The Pretrial Chamber agreed with Bensouda that there were reasonable grounds to believe that, pursuant to a U.S. policy, members of the CIA had committed war crimes. They included torture and cruel treatment, and outrages upon personal dignity, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence against those held in detention facilities in the territory of States Parties to the Rome Statute, including Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania. Bensouda interviewed thousands of victims during her preliminary examination. About 100 of them joined her appeal of the Pretrial Chamber’s ruling. Victims and their lawyers hailed the Appeals Chamber’s decision and expressed hope that those responsible will finally be held accountable.
  • Bensouda’s office said she had an “independent and impartial mandate” under Rome Statute governing the ICC. “The prosecutor and her office will continue to undertake that statutory duty with utmost commitment and professionalism, without fear or favour,” it added. Bensouda makes regular trips to the UN in New York, where she gives briefings to the security council. The UN office is seen as covered by a form of diplomatic immunity... Bensouda asked ICC judges in November 2017 for authorisation to open an investigation into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan by the Taliban, Afghan government forces and international forces, including US troops. The investigation is also expected to examine CIA activity in detention centres in Afghanistan. The court has not yet decided whether to launch a full-blown investigation that would cover events after 2002.
  • The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on Thursday reiterated her position that Palestine is a state for the purposes of transferring criminal jurisdiction over its territory to The Hague. Dismissing the legal opinions of several states and dozens of international law scholars, Fatou Bensouda’s view, laid out in great detail in a 60-page document, could pave the way for an investigation of alleged war crimes committed in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. “The Prosecution has carefully considered the observations of the participants and remains of the view that the Court has jurisdiction over the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” she wrote.
  • On December 20, concluding a five-year preliminary examination of the “situation in Palestine,” Bensouda said she has “reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed” in those regions by both the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas and other “Palestinian armed groups." At the time, she said that she herself believes the court indeed has jurisdiction to investigate possible war crimes in the regions, but, due to the controversial nature of the case, asked for a definitive ruling on the matter from a pre-trial chamber. Member states and independent experts were invited to weigh on the matter as well. “Such a wide variety of perspectives will afford considerable legitimacy to the Court’s ultimate decision,” Bensouda wrote. In the document she published Thursday, Bensouda reiterated that her position is not about the question of Palestinian statehood per se, but rather about whether the “State of Palestine,” which is a member of the ICC, can convey criminal jurisdiction to the court. In her view, Palestine indeed fulfills all required criteria to do that.
  • Palestine is a state and the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction involving its cases, the ICC prosecutor ruled Thursday, which could pave the way for a war crimes investigation against Israel. A three-judge panel of the ICC Pretrial Chamber must now affirm the decision by Fatou Bensouda. Israel has been accused of committing war crimes in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip... Under Bensouda’s 60-page decision, the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction in “territory” that “comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.”
  • Bensouda... concluded there was “reason to believe” that crimes were “committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies … which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan.” Bensouda requested that the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber approve an investigation into these allegations. The Trump administration threatened to deny visas to ICC judges and prosecutors and warned it would retaliate with sanctions if the court opened an investigation. On April 5, 2019, the U.S. government revoked Bensouda’s visa to travel to the United States. A week later, on April 12, 2019, the Pretrial Chamber apparently succumbed to U.S. pressure and declined to authorize Bensouda’s investigation. Although agreeing with Bensouda that there were reasonable grounds to believe that CIA members had committed war crimes, the Pretrial Chamber denied her request for an investigation... But in a landmark decision, on March 5, 2020, the Appeals Chamber overruled the Pretrial Chamber’s determination and authorized Bensouda to initiate an investigation.....

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