Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda: Justice and accountability are key to peace

 By Lupita Peimbert

(Paris) – The Forum for New Diplomacy presented a conversation with prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the International Criminal Court. The event was hosted by the International Herald Tribune, and the Academie Diplomatique Internationale, and facilitated by journalist Marlise Simons, on Tuesday, March 20.

Fatou Bensouda and Marlise Simmons during a conversation engagement presented by the Forum for New Diplomacy, in Paris. [Photo: LP].
Fatou Bensouda and Marlise Simmons during a conversation engagement presented by the Forum for New Diplomacy, in Paris. [Photo: LP].
 With jurisdiction in more than 120 countries, Bensouda’s leadership plays a key role worldwide. Her office currently is investigating and prosecuting cases in Uganda, Darfur, Kenya Libya Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Mali, and studying “situations,” -as she refers to it, in Korea, Colombia, Honduras, Nigeria, Guinea, Georgia and Afghanistan.

  “Should perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide always be prosecuted?” Bensouda asked. “Shall we strive for peace at all costs, sacrificing justice on the way, or shall we soldier on in the pursuit for justice to end impunity?”

Prosecutor Bensouda emphasized that the pursuit of justice is a key factor to achieve peace. “Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin,” she said.

The task is not easy. Every case is extremely complex. Unfolding events can be affected by the agendas from powerful players, ranging from the highly ideological to the highly realist, and of course, by the interests of governments.

Fatou Bensouda
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. [Photo: LP].
For instance, the current president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, who happens to be the son of Kenya’s founding father, is facing charges for his alleged role in directing some of the post-election violence occurred in Kenya in 2007. Witnesses for this trial held by the International Criminal Court may be afraid to testify against someone who has power over police, the military, and the nation they live in.

“We are not going for the person first. We investigate the crime first, then we look for those responsible,” Bensouda said, emphasizing on accountability to achieve justice. “Accountability is key to protect people from atrocities.”

Atrocities such as the killing of an estimated 1,800 Mayans and leftist fighters during Guatemala’s civil war.  The International Criminal Court investigated the alleged torture, arson, and rape used by soldiers, and it is now conducting a trial that began on March 20. It has been said that 150 witnesses will testify in this case against General Efrain Rios Montt, 86 years old, and Jose Rodríguez Sánchez, 68; both allegedly accountable for the massacres and who have said they never ordered such atrocities.

“Now it is not a question of if it happens, but when it would happen,” Bensouda said, referring to the fact that going from case to trial may take a long time, but implying that the efforts will be made to achieve justice.

Bensouda told the audience at the Forum for New Democracy, that one of her priorities, is justice for victims of sexual and gender crimes. “These are crimes even in times of war. These cases must be properly investigated and presented. Those who perpetrate these crimes will be prosecuted.”

The Deputy Director General of the Academie Diplomatique Internationale, Timothy Ryback, and the publisher of the International Herald Tribune, Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, qualified Fatou Bensouda as one of the most important prosecutors in the world, and a highly influential woman.