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Is Africa a Participant or Target of International Justice? – An Interview with Fatou Bensouda, the then-Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) by Evelyn Ankumah

 

ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda

 

EA: What would you say is the ICC’s greatest achievement to date?

FB: I would say first of all that the legitimacy of the ICC as an institution has been established. This has been as a result of what we have been able to do in a short while with respect to our achievements which I think have exceeded expectations.  We  have  been  able  to  –  if  you  look  at  how  the  Court  has  been  working  in  the  past couples of years – bring four persons before the Court and trials have started. There are two trials running now and another one is going to start soon. Just recently we have had two persons who are subjects of summonses appear voluntarily before the Court. This shows the credibility of the Court. The Court is functioning and is fully operational now.

EA: So who are the two persons who voluntarily appeared before the Court?

FB: Recently, we issued 3 summonses to appear for three rebel commanders within the Darfur situation. And one of them, Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, first appeared in response to the summons, this happened last year. And the two others, Banda and Jerbo, also appeared in July voluntarily. When they were asked before the judges why they were appearing, they said they believed justice would be done and believed they had to surrender voluntarily to the Court.

EA: How did they appear voluntarily? Did they arrive at Schiphol and then turned themselves in to the Dutch police upon arrival, or did they come to the ICC and surrendered to the Security at the gate?

FB: No, no. This is why the cooperation aspect of the ICC’s mandate is crucial. The voluntary appearance of these two people was entirely the combination of a lot of efforts on the part of the officers of the OTP (Office of the Prosecutor), the Registry and certain states that were helping us put the logistics together, such as their travel documents for example, and lots of coordination with us to finally have them arrive here. We worked with their lawyer to make sure that their coming to The Hague was facilitated. There was a lot of coordination. The two persons indicated that they wanted to surrender to the ICC and that their lawyer would contact us. There were a lot of complications; for example, they could not travel from the Sudan just openly like that. It involved a lot of logistics, cooperation and assistance. But we were successful.

Just recently we have had two persons who  are subjects of summonses appear  voluntarily before the Court. When asked  why the appeared voluntarily, they said they  believed justice would be done.

EA: What are the major challenges facing the ICC?

FB: One of the main challenges that we face is conducting investigations. We investigate situations of ongoing conflicts. For example in Darfur, we have quite a lot of logistical obstacles, we could not access the crime scene. We had to investigate Darfur without going to Darfur so that in itself is a challenge. We had to consider how to approach witnesses without endangering them. Because you cannot expose them, we had to identify a safe location to speak to them without drawing attention. Throughout the conduct of interviews we had to look for safe transportation. We had to do everything discretely. We couldn’t do things openly. That is one of the challenges. But we succeeded. During the Darfur investigation, the Office of the Prosecutor interviewed witnesses outside of Darfur, reaching people in 17 countries and collecting nearly 100 statements.

Another challenge is communication, more specifically communication with our witnesses because it is difficult to define the legal position in most of the languages that our witnesses speak. We also have to get people from the region who speak the language to make us understand each other.

Another key challenge is protection. Fortunately so far, after 7 years of operation, none of our witnesses have been harmed and this is because we pay extra attention. Protection of Witnesses is a top priority to the office of the Prosecution (OTP).

Another challenge that the ICC faces is executing warrants. We’ve issued 14 arrest warrants, but only five have been executed. Others are summons to appear before the Court but since they believe in the ICC, they’ll come. The challenge is that the ICC has no police force so it’s hard to execute warrants and this is where cooperation with the court is very important, because arresting a person is a mandate of the States. That is how the states wanted the court to work. We investigate, issue the warrants or summonses and the states execute, but getting people to appear in Court so far has been a major challenge. We target the people bearing the greatest responsibility, and so far we’ve gone only for top people. These people- Lubanga, Katanga, Ngudjolo and Bemba, we have been able to get to Court, but it wasn’t easy. Most of the people we target are usually protected either by militia groups like Joseph Kony or by their countries as in Al Bashir, so that’s a major challenge.

EA: If you start investigations in a country you can’t visit, like Sudan, how do you get access to first-hand information and do you rely on the work of NGOs on the ground for example?

FB: No we don’t. We rely on witnesses, crime based and even insider witnesses. The Darfur conflict has been raging for at least eight years now. Many people have been displaced, including crime based witnesses. Insider witnesses have ran away to seek refuge elsewhere. So it is not difficult to find witnesses outside of Sudan who have first hand information. We visited at least seventeen countries during the course of the investigation to gather evidence, including witnesses who were witnesses to crimes.

We target the people bearing the greatest responsibility, and so far we’ve  gone only for top people. These people- Lubanga, Katanga, Ngudjolo  and  Bemba, we have been able to get to Court, but it wasn’t easy. Most  of  the people we target are usually protected either by militia groups like  Joseph Kony or by their countries as in Al Bashir, so that’s a major  challenge.

EA: Does the AU pose a challenge to you? Its stance of non cooperation in respect of the Al Bashir Arrest Warrant is clear.

FB: As an African, and Deputy Prosecutor of ICC, I regret the fact that commentators too often present the AU position as opposing the Court and opposing accountability. I also regret rumours spread around about African disengagement and even a threat of withdrawing from the Statute. The AU, the Arab League, UN and other international actors have endeavoured for years to end impunity in Darfur. The Mbeki Panel Recommendations and the July 2008 Arab League Solutions Package are important steps taken towards ending crimes in Darfur. In a statement on 23rd March 2010, President Mbeki as head of AU High Level Implementation Panel on Darfur said: “there is a perfect understanding between the Panel and the ICC.” He said arrest warrants are a matter of fact and can only be reviewed by ICC judges, but he added that the rest of the crimes committed in Darfur should be addressed by Sudan domestically, and the AU Panel has formulated recommendations in this regard President Mbeki has a huge task of moving the process of accountability for other individuals involved in the commission of the crimes and we’re committed to working with them. The AU Constitutive Act makes clear that values of accountability and ending impunity are shared by the AU and ICC. Perception is another issue to be addressed. There is the perception that Africa is not cooperating with the ICC. We are receiving all the cooperation we need from individual African states. We are conducting investigations and requesting assistance which we’re getting fully. We should look at the broader mandate that the AU has and has been trying to achieve in Darfur and also what the ICC has been trying to achieve in Darfur.

EA: Some AU member states like Botswana are supportive of the ICC, while others are not. I think it is fair to say that the AU as a body does pose a challenge. And it is not all rumours. When we convened our South North Dialogue in April on the “Al Bashir Arrest Warrant: the World vs. Africa or the African Union vs. The People of Africa” a Senior Official of the AU Commission told me that the AU will not participate in our Forum if the ICC Prosecutor comes.

FB: Of course I won’t dispute the fact that you were told this. My point is that it is unfortunate that some officials of the AU are taking this position because this isn’t reflective of what’s going on, and what’s going on is that the ICC is requesting help from individual African states and receiving it. So it is unfortunate that such a statement was made. The ICC is working with Africa, and working for African victims, so I don’t think the AU should be against that.

As an African, and Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC, I  regret  the fact that commentators too often present the  AU  position as opposing the Court and opposing  accountability. I also regret rumours spread around  about  African disengagement… We are receiving all the  cooperation we need from individual African states.

EA: What happened to plans to establish an AU liaison office in Addis?

FB: Well in the last AU summit there was a resolution adopted deferring the opening of the liaison office for now. We will continue to engage the AU on that as we believe it will be useful for both our institutions to have such an office.

EA: What will the liaison office do? What (terms) are they trying to agree on?

FB: First of all thirty one African countries have signed and ratified the Rome Statute and those countries are in the AU, which is over half the AU membership. Also our ongoing cases right now are in Africa. So the liaison office is mainly for collecting and sharing information that the AU should have first hand access to as quickly as possible and likewise for us to receive information from them, and we think that by having a liaison office on the ground we should be able to do this.

EA: Why just an AU liaison office, why not one for the EU or OAS?

FB: It’s not just the AU. We have one in New York already.

EA: And that’s for which group?

FB: That’s for the UN, it’s already there and is fully functioning.

EA: How long has it been there?

FB: It was established in 2005 by the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). The Head of the Office assumed her responsibilities in 2006.

EA: How many people work there?

FB: The liaison officer herself, and one assistant. Also, we’ve signed an agreement with the EU and it’s the same kind of agreement we thought we could sign with the AU. But now we are discussing a Memorandum of Understanding which we are prepared to settle for.

EA: But you don’t actually have an EU liaison office, you only have an agreement?

FB: We have an agreement. We signed it in 2006 and we’re receiving quite a lot of assistance from the EU, the cooperation is very good.

EA: One of the recurring questions in our work on the ICC and international criminal justice more generally is this: “Is Africa a participant or target of international justice?”

FB: Well, first of all let’s focus on facts, and not perceptions. The facts we have today show that African leaders and activists are building a system of international criminal justice designed by the Rome Statute to protect victims of massive crimes; these are the facts. We have two problems with perceptions: first, that the ICC is targeting Africa and second, that the ICC is ignoring other criminals. But the fact is that Africa is leading the adoption of the Rome Statute and its implementation, and there are numerous examples to show how Africans are leading the way. African states led the ratification process of the Rome Statute, Senegal was the first state party; Africa is the most represented region of the world in the Rome Statute; African judges make up about 28% of the bench, that is five out of the eighteen judges and four of them are women; African leaders have referred three cases to the court (DRC, Uganda and CAR) and in the case of our latest investigation in Kenya for example, they have pledged full cooperation with the Court.

Now let me give you some further facts: there are over five million African victims displaced, more that 40,000 African victims killed, thousands of African victims are raped, hundreds of thousands of African children are transformed into killers and rapists, 100% of the victims are Africans, 100% of the accused persons are also Africans. We are on the side of the victims.

The Kampala Review Conference has allowed us to reaffirm the African commitment to protect victims and to do justice, and by their participation in the Review Conference, African leaders have demonstrated their consistency, their commitment and their ability to continue leading the Rome system. Africa is a participant, it is not a target.

EA: Could it be that Africa is both a willing participant and a target?

FB: It cannot be, it is a participant, and there is no reason why the ICC should target Africa. As I said, the ICC is working with and for African victims. If it had not been for the early referrals by African state parties, the work of the ICC would not have started as early as it did. And it is as a result of these referrals that today the ICC is fully operational and these referrals came from African states.

EA: The ICC is targeting crimes against humankind, crimes against humanity. It is targeting enemies of humankind. The statistics that you have shown have many of these crimes originating from Africa. If you are targeting crimes against humanity, and enemies of humankind, and Africa is featuring very seriously in that, then what’s wrong with targeting Africa and Africans?

FB: Well you’ve answered the question (laughs). But I don’t want it to be seen as the ICC is working so that they can target perpetrators in Africa alone because this is not what is happening. I think what is happening is that Africa is leading the way in this important area.

FB says: “Now let me give you some further facts: there  are over five million African victims displaced, more that  40,000 African victims killed, thousands of African  victims  are raped, hundreds of thousands of African  children are  transformed into killers and rapists, 100%  of  the victims  are Africans, 100% of the accused persons  are also  Africans. We are on the side of the victims”.

EA: How does the OTP go about selecting cases? Do you have your own in house procedure?

FB: We have internal procedures and we are of course guided by the statute and rules. You know three cases were referred by state parties: the case of Darfur was referred by the UN Security Council, and in the case of Kenya, the Prosecutor used his proprio motu powers to initiate an investigation. But the OTP is an independent body and it can choose to engage or not to take up a case. So it would seem to me that one of the best ways of showing our total independence is not just to say that we had referrals from state parties and the UN Security Council, and another case in a country like Kenya which is a willing participant. It’s more what do you have in-house that you can show and use. Even if cases are referred to us, there are procedures that we follow and we just don’t wait for cases to be referred to us. We obviously have internal procedures that we use, and I will shortly just refer you to the prosecutor strategy that we publish every three years. I mentioned at the start of interview that we’re investigating situations of ongoing conflicts and also going after those who bear the greatest responsibility for these crimes. Maybe one thing I need to tell you is that referring a situation to the OTP does not automatically mean that we will conduct investigations there, or even when the UN Security Council refers a case to us doesn’t mean we automatically start investigations either. First we need to find out whether crimes within the jurisdiction of the court have been committed, and gravity is a criterion that we also use. We have an in-house developed strategy that we use in selecting our cases, and we look for certain criteria, some of which include whether the crimes fall within our jurisdiction, but also the impact of those crimes in the region for example. In the country we look at the gravity of those crimes, the nature of those crimes, and we study and analyze them all.

Before the OTP decides to open an investigation a lot of work is done in-house. We collect information. We have been receiving information from many conflict countries, and they are not only from within Africa. For instance we are analyzing Colombia and the prosecutor has been visiting to check. We are receiving information from Afghanistan. Already, we have a declaration by the Palestinian authorities accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC. So there are in-house processes that we have to go through before the prosecutor selects any particular case or even opens an investigation. It’s not only when we receive referrals that we start a case; we have to look at it ourselves in-house, analyze the information and then decide whether we have to go ahead with the investigations or not. That’s why we have what is known as the preliminary analysis phase before the investigative phase, and it is the result of those preliminary analyses which will determine whether we move forward or not.

EA: So Colombia is still a possibility? Because I heard that you were not going to investigate. Colombia, is it still a possibility?

FB: I don’t think the prosecutor has said that we are not going to go Colombia. He’s been there, we collected information, and analyzed it. Currently the information we are receiving is that Colombia is going to try perpetrators of these crimes, and as you know, there is complementarity under the Rome Statute. If Colombia is doing it the ICC is going to have to wait and see whether these proceedings are genuine or not. If they are genuine we will not of course intervene because the ICC is a Court of last resort. If it is not genuine or if they are not doing anything at all then this will not stop the ICC from intervening.

EA: Wouldn’t you say the same for Uganda? The situation in Northern Uganda was referred to the ICC, and then Uganda set up a War Crimes Division (WCD) within the High Court of Uganda.

FB: Yes that’s true, later! At the time we proceeded with our investigations and requested for warrants to issue, no High Court was set up, and there was no indication from Uganda that they would try the crimes themselves. So now could the ICC say here you have your court, over to you? No! ICC has always taken the position that we want the persons who are subject of our arrest warrants. We have gone to a level with our investigations in Uganda where arrest warrants were issued against the top commanders of the Lord’s Resistance Army. And ICC’s position has always been that these are the persons that we want, whom we think have the greatest responsibilities for these crimes. The Ugandan Court can deal with the others, this has always been the ICC’s position. So, ICC’s position is that do whatever you want to do to bring peace to Uganda. People have different mandates, but these persons whom we already have investigated and have issued arrest warrant against, hand them over.

EA: So, if Uganda would decide to work things out or try the persons against whom you have arrest warrants, you’ll say sorry, the ICC will not disengage.

FB: I don’t think they should do that. Uganda referred the case to us and we have warrants against Kony and the other two who are remaining so I think they should hand them over.

EA: You have said on a number of occasions and even today that you’re on the side of the victims. Is justice only about the victim? A Judge in Africa once said that “In delivering justice it is the happy medium that we should strive for, without losing sight of the position of the victim.” So isn’t it an extreme position to be on the side of the victim? Does justice mean you have to be on the side of the victim or should we rather be striving for the happy medium?

FB: When I continuously say that I am on the side of the victims, you need to step back and look at what has been happening. We are talking about massive crimes of leaders/perpetrators who are in a position of authority committing massive crimes against their own people/victims. And what happens at the end of the day? Some negotiated settlement, some golden exile, and some amnesty for these perpetrators. No justice, no accountability and the cycle continues in another country. We need to stop and realize that this is happening over and over again because nobody is holding them accountable. I think what we negotiated in Rome is clear, just like the setting up of the ad hoc tribunals: that no one should enjoy impunity for these crimes they commit. And who do they commit crimes against? The victims, and they are the ones who suffer the injustices, they don’t see anybody being made responsible for what they’ve perpetrated against them. And at the end of the day, they are the ones who should be the ultimate beneficiaries of bringing perpetrators to justice.

EA: The first Review Conference of the International Criminal Court has just ended. Would you say the outcome was a step forward, somewhere in the middle, or a step back?

FB: The ICC Review Conference has allowed us to take stock and ensure that state parties guarantee respect for rights of victims in DRC, in Uganda, in Darfur and everywhere else. And the resolution that we have amending the Rome Statute to include the definition of the crime of aggression and the conditions under which the court should exercise jurisdiction with respect to the crime I think was also a step forward for the ICC. The state parties’ declaration on cooperation emphasizes the crucial role that the execution of arrest warrants plays in ensuring the effectiveness of the Court’s jurisdiction, and further emphasizes the primary obligation of state parties and other states under an obligation to cooperate with the Court, to assist the Court in the swift enforcement of its pending arrest warrants. We see that the ICC is now casting a growing shadow; each of its decisions will impact at least 111 state parties and beyond. The ICC is a small part of a system, and the impact of the Court – the size of this shadow I have mentioned – will depend on how the system of justice based in a global network integrates its species, harmonizes the different mandates. I think this is a challenge we will face. And I think the Review Conference has given us the opportunity to articulate a consistent strategy for all the different actors, namely the states, the governmental and non-governmental organizations, civil societies – in short all of the actors – to be able to implement the rights of the victims. On the whole, I thought it was a good outcome we had in Kampala.

EA: The crime of aggression, would this be any more difficult to investigate and prosecute than the crime of genocide for example?

FB: I don’t think it would be more difficult to investigate. It is a crime, and once we have arrived at a definition, once it is clear what elements we are to look for, then we’ll investigate. I mean the other crimes we’re investigating, war crimes etc., they also have their challenges to investigate and we’re doing it anyway. I just think it will only be an added crime we’ll need to investigate, but I don’t see the challenges becoming more difficult than the other crimes we’re already investigating.

EA: So you do not share the view that the inclusion of the crime of aggression would politicize the ICC and add to its many challenges?

FB: No I do not share that view. I mean the ICC cannot use political considerations in its investigations, we cannot afford to do that. Up until now, this is one of the things which has established our credibility, that we’re not using political considerations.

EA: President Al Bashir’s visit to Kenya in spite of an ICC Arrest Warrant against him, and considering that Kenya will be the next ICC situation country, does this not reinforce the notion that the AU and Africa might be obstacles to the ICC. How did the ICC respond to the Bashir visit?

FB: Al Bashir is fighting for his freedom using different tactics. He is abusing African hospitality by going to neighbouring countries, threatening Western countries with affecting the South and offering carrots to foreign business, to French, American and English companies. He is, however, a fugitive president. When visiting Kenya recently, as soon as the judges informed the UN Security Council, he left the country. Africa is moving in the right direction. Kenya is moving towards a new future with the new constitution. Al Bashir is representing the past the face of violence and the face of genocide. The more he travels, the more likely he will be arrested. The Court is permanent and we can wait, but the victims cannot. They are being raped today. They are dying today.

The Security Council should implement measures and strategies to counter Al Bashir’s tactics. The AU and the Security Council should also agree between themselves on a solution.

EA: What in your background has most prepared you for this position of Deputy Prosecutor of the ICC?

FB: First of all I like what I do, and secondly, I had enough experience at both the national and international levels to be able to assume these responsibilities. When it comes to leadership and management, I had occupied the highest position in the legal arena in my country that is being the Attorney General and Justice Minister of the Gambia. Also, when it comes to prosecution, I had been Deputy Director of Public Prosecution but also effectively acting as director of public prosecutions of the Gambia for several years. And also, when it comes to prosecuting, from the time I got to the Gambia after finishing my studies which is over 20 years ago, that is what I did; I spent a lot of my time in court prosecuting, and as I said, I have this burning desire to see justice done for victims. After I left the Gambia I worked at the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) for a couple of years, prosecuting massive crimes. First I was a legal adviser working closely with investigators, and later as trial lawyer appearing in court. So I think these experiences have helped me to be able to be in this position, of course always learning but also coming with some experience that I could contribute.

EA: Your tenure as Deputy ICC Prosecutor is coming up in about 3 years?

FB: Yes.

EA: What will you do next?

FB: You know I was elected to be Deputy Prosecutor by the Assembly of State Parties, in 2004, for a period of nine years. As you rightly said I have three more years to go. So over the next three years and until the end of my term at the ICC, I will endeavour to continue promoting the link between justice, accountability and international peace. By advocating these ICC core values which are also consistent with African norms, we will prevail over impunity. All of my life, I have remained focused on what I wanted to do and where I wanted to get to. I am very grateful for the opportunities that have presented themselves to me in the course of my career as a professional woman. And what I always say is that we don’t have to wait as women for opportunities to be given or handed out. There is no glass ceiling, and as African women we have the potential and we can use it.

EA: Well, I’ve heard some rumours that you might have been identified as the next Prosecutor of the ICC when Mr. Ocampo’s term ends in two years.

FB: You know it is not automatic. It’s not a succession, just because I’m the Deputy Prosecutor. If I were to present myself, I would be a candidate among many others, and the Assembly would have to make the decision. What I can say in that regard however, is that I feel that I have both the experience and qualifications to occupy that position. Also, given the fact that I’ve been in this position in the past six years working very closely with the Prosecutor, I have institutional knowledge which I think I can contribute if I were to be elected as the next Prosecutor. I can bring some knowledge and experience to the table.

EA: I believe you can. In addition to your obvious qualification and obvious preparedness for the position, you have been with this new institution for many years. For continuity, that would be a plus. You’re also an African, all the cases are coming from Africa, and you’re a woman! And it’s all about mainstreaming gender justice. So I would say why not? You can’t go wrong with that.

EA: What advice would you give to women, and African women in particular, aspiring to work in governance, rule of law issues etc. and really aspiring to be at the fore-front? I was at the ICC Review Conference, at the Opening Ceremony all those on the Panel were men. There was the UN Secretary General, the former UN Secretary General, two heads of states- Presidents Museveni and Kikwete of Uganda and Tanzania, the Prosecutor of the ICC, the President of the Assembly of State Parties to the ICC, I don’t remember who else was there? Well we had all these people, and behind them were the women- the first Vice President of the ICC, the Deputy Prosecutor- your good self….

FB: That’s not looking good (laughs).

EA: You know? And that’s at the international level where one would expect more enlightenment and better representation! I remember when I first attended a meeting of the African Commission – I think this was in 1992 – there were all these men at the table. Shadrack Gutto was there and he had the courage to say something about it. A non-resident African, with legal training in the U.S. and Europe, I thought, ok, maybe this is how things are done in Africa let me just keep quiet. Shadrack had the guts to ask why we didn’t have female members of the African Commission. It was so glaring and I was thinking how did they end up with an all male Commission in the first place.

FB: Yes I agree!

EA: So anyway back to my last question. What advice would you give to young women, aspiring women, women from all over the world and women from Africa in particular?

FB: You know something that I have seen that I think can never fail you is equipping yourself, and by that I mean getting your qualifications, studying, knowing your stuff and getting there. At the end of the day we should not only say that because we’re women, we should be there. We are qualified women and we have the right to be there, this is something I think can work. And apart from getting yourself equipped, I repeat again that I don’t think there is a glass ceiling; if you have the qualifications you must also fight for what you deserve, it’s not going to be given to us so forget that.

The world has come a long way and we have seen that apart from suppressing women, we don’t see, unfortunately, our male counterparts pulling us up, so we have to do it ourselves. But before that, let’s equip ourselves so that we can be in a position to fight for it. Also, remain focused on what you want to do, get yourself equipped for that as much as you can. Furthermore, those of us who are privileged to occupy these positions should support others who want to come up. Women should be out there acting as role models, setting the standard and assisting those who perhaps don’t have that opportunity, in whatever way we can.

EA: Thank you very much! I will be observing with keen interest the progress of the ICC, and your own progress in international justice.

FB: I’m sure you will continue to contribute because we know what you’re doing; we see where AFLA is, where AFLA stands, and how AFLA is supporting Africa and international justice. We would also like to say thank you for that!

On the prospects of her becoming the next Prosecutor of the  International Criminal Court, this is what the Deputy ICC  Prosecutor from Gambia had to say: “I feel that I have both the  experience and qualifications to occupy that position. Also, given  the fact that I’ve been in this position in the past six years working  very closely with the Prosecutor, I have institutional knowledge  which I think I can contribute if I were to be elected as the next  Prosecutor. I can bring some knowledge and experience to the  table”.

* On 8 September 2004, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda of the Gambia was elected Deputy Prosecutor by the Assembly of States Parties. She is in charge of the Prosecution Division of the Office of the Prosecutor. Prior to her election, Mrs. Bensouda worked as a Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of The Legal Advisory Unit. Before joining the ICTR, she was the General Manager of a leading commercial bank in The Gambia. Between 1987 and 2000, she was successively Senior State Counsel, Principal State Counsel, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Solicitor General and Legal Secretary of the Republic, then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, in which capacity she served as Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet of The Republic of The Gambia. Mrs. Bensouda also took part in negotiations on the treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Parliament and the ECOWAS Tribunal. She has been a delegate at United Nations’ conferences on crime prevention, the Organization of African Unity’s Ministerial Meetings on Human Rights, and the delegate of the Gambia to the meetings of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court. In 2009, she received the International Criminal Justice (ICJ) award presented by the President of India in New Delhi for her contribution to Criminal law both at the national and international level. Mrs. Bensouda holds a masters degree in International Maritime Law and Law of The Sea and as such is the first international maritime law expert of The Gambia.

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