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Sunday, August 9, 2020

ICC’s Bensouda vows to continue ‘without fear or favour’

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By Salem Solomon

Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has vowed to “stand firm” after US president, Donald Trump, authorised sanctions against the court, which is probing suspected war crimes by American troops in Afghanistan.
Fatou Bensouda, originally from The Gambia, told Voice of America that she would not be swayed from her mission of prosecuting international war criminals.
“These attacks constitute an escalation and an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law and the court’s judicial proceedings,” Bensouda

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“An attack on the ICC also represents an attack against the interests of victims of atrocity crimes, for many of whom the ICC represents the last hope for justice.”
Trump authorised sanctions on Thursday against the ICC, which has indicated it is investigating alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by US troops in Afghanistan as well as alleged crimes by Afghan and Taliban forces. Bensouda has not further specified the types of crimes being investigated.

The sanctions could impose financial and travel restrictions on ICC employees and their families. US Attorney General William Barr has also announced the US Department of Justice has evidence of corruption in the office of the ICC prosecutor but has not elaborated on it publicly.

‘Naked attempts to interfere’
Bensouda had her visa to travel to the US revoked last year but said she has been able to visit New York several times since then to brief the UN Security Council on her office’s work.

“The visa restrictions, the threats and the other measures that were announced by the US, I see as naked attempts to interfere with the court’s judicial and prosecutorial independence to meet political objectives,” she said. “And we regret the aggressive position that has been taken by the US government, not least given the country’s long-standing contribution to the field of international criminal justice.”

Bensouda added that the court is accustomed to anger from countries where it operates. In recent years, a number of African heads of state have criticised the court for disproportionately targeting Africans and called for African countries to withdraw from the ICC.

“Because of the nature of our work, because we are challenging the status quo because we will exercise our jurisdiction without fear or favour, we will expect this pushback,” Bensouda told VOA. “It is not going to be the last time that this is happening to the court.”

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