International Criminal Court investigating PH President on alleged extrajudicial killings |ICC Chief Prosecutor

As chief prosecutor of the international criminal court in the Hague, the Gambian lawyer aims to do what other courts can’t: mete out justice to war criminals and genocidal despots.

ICC Chief Prosecutor

The FENIX Files, PH (November 2, 2017) – International Criminal court Chief Prosecutor Ms. Fataou Bensouda has announced that she is investigating Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on alleged extrajudicial killings.

Speaking hours after visiting victims of the war crime in Mali on Monday (Read more: ICC investigates war crimes in Mali: Fatou Bensouda), Fataou confirmed that the Philippines strongman is under investigations.

“Our court won’t leave an unturned stone. We have dealt with Africans and we are headed to Philippines. This court has investigated Mr. Duterte and we are going to put him on trial as from January.” she said.

“We won’t allow head of states to continue butchering people just because they are in power. I have recorded over 9,000 extrajudicial killings and we are going to take action uninvited. Duterte is the modern Hitler in Asia.” she added.

Early this year, Duterte said he would not be intimidated by the prospect of the International Criminal Court (ICC) putting him on trial over his bloody war on drugs, promising that his campaign would continue and would be “brutal”.

More than 8,000 people have died since Duterte took office on June 30 last year, and began his anti-drugs campaign.

A third of the fatalities were killed in raids and sting operations by police who say they acted in self-defense, while the rest were killed by unknown gunmen.

Rights groups said many of the deaths were assassinations of drug users with police complicity, allegations that authorities have denied.

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Fatou Bensouda, the woman who hunts tyrants

ICC Chief Prosecutor 2

She can’t quite explain it, but for the best part of five decades, since she was a very young schoolgirl growing up in the Gambia, Fatou Bensouda says she has felt powerfully driven by a sense of right and wrong. “The issue of justice and accountability seems to be … in my DNA.” She wiggles her fingertips as if they tingle. “I just feel I have this [sense] – and I’m sure many people do, huh? – but there must be justice. There must be fairness. As soon as I was able to know and analyse certain injustices in society around me, I wanted to do something about it.”

As a high school student, Bensouda used to sneak into the nearby courts in her school uniform, until chased out by the court officials. She watched women, in particular, “and I did not seem to feel that they were receiving the protective embrace of the law. For me that is one of the things that informed my decision to say, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

That young schoolgirl, one of more than a dozen siblings born to a polygamous Muslim family in the smallest country in mainland Africa, is now the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court in the Hague. The institution was established with the intention of ending impunity for war criminals and genocidal tyrants across the world who might otherwise have considered themselves above the law; Bensouda, as such, might be described as the person from whom they have most to fear. From that small schoolgirl, to this: “It’s been a journey,” she says with a smile.

Bensouda is now 55, and has been the ICC’s most senior prosecutor since 2012, a decade after the court was established, when she was elected to replace the post’s inaugural holder, Luis Moreno Ocampo. She became, at a stroke, one of the most powerful African (or Muslim) women in the world.

But to understand what Bensouda can do, it is important first to clarify what she has not done. It was not, for instance, the international criminal court that put the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic and more than 100 others on trial for crimes in the former Yugoslavia, and earlier this year convicted Radovan Karadzic of war crimes and genocide.

That was the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), an ad hoc body established in 1991 that to date has seen more than 80 of that conflict’s bloodiest criminals convicted and sentenced. A similar international tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), set up three years later, convicted 61 people of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

The ICC, by contrast, has had a much bumpier beginning. Though the court has issued nine summonses and 29 arrest warrants, including for the Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and, before his death, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, in the 14 years since its existence it has convicted three people of war crimes, the Congolese rebels Thomas Lubanga and Germain Katanga and the country’s former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba.

More than 120 countries have ratified the court’s founding statute, but equally important is the list of those that have not – including around half of the nations in Africa, almost all the Middle East and most of central and far-east Asia. Most critically, three of the five permanent members of the UN security council, which have the power to veto UN referrals to the court, are not party to it: the US, Russia and China.


“I want to make it clear that when we look into any situation, beginning with the preliminary examinations and going forward, nobody is targeted. Nobody. We do not say, ‘We are going out to investigate, in this case, Tony Blair.’ Or any other person.” Rather, she says, if a case passes the criteria to become a formal investigation, they consider all its circumstances.

“How did the crimes start, how were [they] committed? … But we also look at who bears the greatest responsibility for those crimes. Who, in our assessment, is the person without whom the crime would not have been committed?… We cannot say now that if we were to start investigations, we are going to charge Mr X or Mr Y. It’s not responsible to even say that.”

On the question or otherwise of the war’s legality, however, she is able to be more clear. The ICC signatories are soon likely to add the “crime of aggression” (meaning an unjustified or illegal war) to the three other crimes in their jurisdiction – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bensouda hopes it may deter other illegitimate conflicts in future – but it will not be retrospective.

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