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ICC Chief Prosecutor Bensouda: "Give victims a voice"

On the latest edition of DW's "Conflict Zone with Tim Sebastian," the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, defends the relevance of the ICC despite its low number of convictions.

"What is more important [than convictions] is the impact that the court has had so far in its infancy," Bensouda argues. "We have continued to attempt to give victims a voice."

Fatou Bensouda said her remit is to "go after crimes that fall into my jurisdiction" and not "any crimes, not all sorts of crimes."

Asked whether the court, which entered into force in 2002, has an African bias, she said: "I think it is correct to say that most of our cases, or all of our cases at the moment, are in Africa. But that is not the whole picture."

Last November the African Union (AU) attacked the ICC, saying it "is no longer a court for all." On "Conflict Zone" Bensouda claimed to be unfazed by the AU's proposed creation of its own African High Court for Justice: "I don't know why what they are doing (…) should be a slap in the face for ICC. (…) Setting up a court to try these atrocity crimes is not against ICC's principles. In fact, ICC is a court of last resort. We will be encouraged by national jurisdictions taking up their responsibility to investigate and prosecute these crimes."

At the same time, the chief prosecutor dismissed the AU's decision to grant immunity to sitting heads of state and government officials: "As far as crimes within the jurisdiction of the court are committed, (…) there will be no immunity for whoever it may be. (…) This is our mandate."

Bensouda has come under fire for keeping silent about human rights abuses in her home country, The Gambia. She told host Tim Sebastian that the issue "does not fall within my mandate."

Tim Sebastian pointed out that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is allowed to travel freely in spite of an international ICC warrant for his arrest. Bensouda denied that South Africa's decision to let him leave the country in June 2015 was "a blow to the credibility of the ICC."

Born in The Gambia in 1961, Fatou Bensouda studied law in Nigeria. She was minister of justice of The Gambia before becoming a deputy prosecutor at the ICC in The Hague in 2004. In June 2012 she succeeded Luis Moreno Ocampo as the ICC's chief prosecutor.

DW's Tim Sebastian invites national and international decision-makers to his weekly DW show. "Conflict Zone" airs every Wednesday at 17.30 UTC and is available online on demand.

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Christoph Jumpelt

Christoph Jumpelt

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