International Criminal Court Swears in New Prosecutor

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 10:50 am (UTC-5)
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Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda has been sworn in as the new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The 51-year-old Bensouda took the oath of office Friday at a ceremony in The Hague, six months after ICC member states selected her as prosecutor.

“I, Fatou Bensouda, solemnly undertake that I will perform my duties and exercise my powers.”

Bensouda is the first woman and the first African to be chief prosecutor at the ICC, which some observers have criticized for pursuing only cases in African countries.

In a speech after her swearing-in, Bensouda made no mention of the criticism, but thanked the African Union for supporting her candidacy. She said the support was “another clear demonstration” of Africa's “commitment to international justice and the fight against impunity.”

Bensouda replaces Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, who stepped down as chief prosecutor on Friday after nine years on the job.

Before coming to the ICC, Bensouda was senior legal adviser at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Earlier, she served as Gambia's attorney general.

The International Criminal Court was founded in 2002 to prosecute individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The court is currently pursuing a total of 15 cases in seven African countries, several of which involve high-ranking officials.

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and genocide in Sudan's Darfur region.

Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo is currently in ICC custody, awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity.