Friday, June 15, 2012

HRW: Expectations for international justice are growing

Fatou Bensouda, New ICC Prosecutor
Human Rights Watch (WRW), one of the world’s most respectable human rights agency, on Thursday said the swearing in of the new International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor comes at a time when “expectations for international justice are growing.” 

Gambia’s former Justice Minister, Fatou Bensouda was sworn into office on June 15, 2012, as the current prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, reaches the end of his nine-year term.

Bensouda is taking over an established office with an already sizeable caseload, HRW said, citing investigations opened by the ICC in seven countries and it’s conducting of preliminary examinations to determine whether to open an investigation in at least seven other countries. 

“In Syria and other strife-torn countries over the past 10 years, the ICC has come to symbolize the last, best hope for justice,” said Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch. “We look to Bensouda’s leadership to advance cases, build bridges with victims, and push countries to support its impartial application of the law to get the job done.”

Bensouda has served as deputy prosecutor of the ICC since 2004 and was elected to be the ICC’s next prosecutor by the court’s member states in December 2011. 

But Human Rights Watch says among Bensouda’s many difficult tasks will be bringing new prosecutions in country situations already before the ICC, while remaining responsive to demands in new country situations.
“Some governments seem to think that the ICC is a light switch that can be turned off when justice becomes inconvenient,” Dicker added. “Bensouda can push back against those seeking to politicize the court by signaling a clear commitment to delivering justice in the courtroom.”

HRW also demanded from all member states to make it a priority at the upcoming November 2012 meeting to elect a deputy prosecutor who has demonstrated excellence in dealing with complex criminal cases and institutional management. This, it said, will Bensouda with meeting the demands of an expanding caseload. 

The agency argues that the absence of charges against government officials without a clear explanation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, and Central African Republic (CAR), has undermined perceptions of the court's independence.

“The perceived failure to pursue allegations against all sides in these countries has fed concerns that the prosecutor is yielding to pressure for “victor’s justice,” damaging the court’s credibility,” it said.

Shortly after taking her oath on Friday, Bansouda vowed to pursue justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, with specific attention to women and children.

She also promised to pursue perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"We should not be guided by the words and propaganda of a few influential individuals whose sole aim is to evade justice but, rather, we should focus on, and listen to the millions of victims who continue to suffer from massive crimes," she told Diplomats and Judges present at the ceremony in The Hague.

"The one thing you can rest assured of is that I will be the prosecutor for all 121 State Parties, acting in full independence and impartiality," added Bensouda, who previously worked at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania.

Written by Modou S. Joof


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