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The International Criminal Court on Trial

A Conversation With Fatou Bensouda

Fatou Bensouda

  • Country: Gambia
  • Title: Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

The quest for a permanent global court to try perpetrators of the world’s worst crimes began as early as 1872. But it was only in 2002 that the International Criminal Court, a standing tribunal now backed by 124 states, finally came into being. Ten years later, in 2012, Fatou Bensouda was sworn in as the ICC’s second chief prosecutor. A former deputy prosecutor at the court, Bensouda had also served as minister of justice in her home country of Gambia and worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In November, she spoke with Foreign Affairs’ deputy managing editor Stuart Reid in New York.

Seven decades after Nuremberg, how far has the world really come in terms of prosecuting crimes against humanity?

Very far. After those trials, you’ve seen the establishment of the ad hoc tribunals of Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, and East Timor to try atrocity crimes. But one of humanity’s proudest moments should be the creation of the ICC. It is not an ad hoc tribunal. It’s a permanent international judicial institution with the mandate to try war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. This really shows the resolve of the international community to say that accountability matters, that those who commit these crimes should be held to account.

The ICC is also the first permanent institution at the international level looking towards the victims. This is the promise of the icc: that the victims of atrocity crimes will see that justice is done.

What are the ICC’s greatest accomplishments?

First, the existence of the court itself as an independent and impartial institution is an important achievement. But also, just recently, [the Malian jihadist Ahmad al-Faqi] al-Mahdi was tried for the destruction of cultural property in Timbuktu. He has pled guilty and been sentenced. This is the first time that any permanent institution has been able to do this.

A lot of work is also being done at the court with regard to sexual and

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