Fatou Bensouda (pictured) became the International Criminal Court‘s (ICC) first African and female prosecutor on June 15, the BBC reports.
Bensouda, who was deputy prosecutor for eight years, will take over for Argentinian, Luis Moreno Ocampo, who held the top job for more than ten years. During her swearing-in, Bensouda says she will push forward with the court’s business of bringing the world’s most heinous war crime criminals to justice.
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“As I begin my tenure, moving forward in consolidating current practices, the office will continue to forge ahead with its investigations and prosecutions,” she said.
“It will, in particular, also continue to look for innovative methods for the collection of evidence to bring further gender crimes and crimes against children to the court, to ensure effective prosecutions of these crimes while respecting and protecting the victims.”
WATCH Bensouda Being Sworn-In
Bensouda, 51, is a native of Gambia and grew up in the capital, Banjul. After attending law school in Lagos, Nigeria, she joined Gambia’s justice ministry in 1987 as a deputy public prosecutor. In 1998, Bensouda became her country’s attorney general and justice minister. In 2004, she left for The Hague to assume the position of deputy chief prosecutor.
Her appointment comes after years of complaints by African leaders who accused the ICC of only pursuing cases on their continent. In 2011, the African Union accused the ICC of discrimination. Bensouda, ICC’s deputy prosecutor at the time, shot back, saying that many Africans have sought out the international body to help bring justice to their homelands.
Here is her response, according to Voice of America:
“Anytime I hear this about ICC targeting Africa, ICC doing double justice, it saddens me, especially as an African woman, also knowing that these conflicts, most of these conflicts are happening on the continent of Africa,” she said.
Bensouda said trials of Africans are for Africans because the alleged victims are Africans.
“We say that ICC is targeting Africans, but all of the victims in our cases in Africa are African victims. They are not from another continent. They are African victims and they are the ones who are suffering these crimes,” said Bensouda.
According to the BBC, Bensouda was selected to assume the top prosecutor role because of her “controlled calm and sensitivity.” That she is also an African-trained lawyer raises hopes Bensouda will silence critics by seeking prosecutions outside of the continent of Africa more aggressively.