Gambia's Fatou Bensouda Takes Helm as ICC Prosecutor

The former Gambian justice minister is the first person from an African country to hold the post.

Posted: 06/15/2012 10:53 AM EDT
Fatou Bensouda is sworn in as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Fatou Bensouda, a former justice minister from the West African nation of Gambia, was sworn in Friday as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Bensouda is the first person from an African country to hold the post. She follows the nearly 10-year run of Argentinian Luis Moreno Ocampo, who is stepping down and was fiercely criticized for unfairly targeting African suspects for prosecution.

Although the African Union lobbied vigorously for Bensouda to gain the pivotal position, she has said her commitment to justice won’t be clouded by her continental ties.

“We say that the ICC is targeting Africans, but all of the victims in our cases in Africa are African victims,” Bensouda said last year according to the BBC.

Bensouda has served as deputy chief prosecutor at the ICC since 2004 and came to the court after a long legal career in Gambia that included the distinction of serving the country as attorney general and becoming Gambia's first international maritime law expert.

At her swearing in Friday, Bensouda promised to focus on gender crimes and crimes against children during her time in office.

"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 Friday. "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."

One of her first jobs as prosecutor will be to ensure that Moammar Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, is brought to justice following his indictment for crimes against humanity.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Bas Czerwinski/Pool)