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Gambia's Bensouda to be ICC chief prosecutor
International Criminal Court member states unanimously elect her to replace Luis Moreno-Ocampo next year.
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2011 18:52
The appointment of an African comes at a time when the ICC is almost exclusively focused on the continent

Gambia's Fatima Bensouda has been formally elected chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Bensouda was the only name put to the 120 member states in Monday’s election at the United Nations headquarters.

The appointment of an African comes at a time when the ICC is almost exclusively focused on the continent.

Bensouda, currently deputy prosecutor, will take over in June from Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the outspoken Argentine who has issued warrants against the likes of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Al Jazeera's Cath Turner in New York said Bensouda brings a "calming influence and stability" to the job.

"She was questioned about the number of different cases that are coming up within .. the court [and] she was very knowledgeable on all of those," she said.

African nations frequently complain that the ICC has unfairly targeted them - all seven cases investigated by the court are in Africa - and the African Union pointedly pressed for Bensouda's appointment.

Diplomats who took part in the selection process praised Bensouda's independence, determination and qualifications.

"I am working for the victims of Africa, they are African like me. That's where I get my inspiration and my pride," Bensouda said in a recent interview with the AFP news agency.

Challenging post

Many analysts say the ICC has become increasingly political and more susceptible to pressure which will be a challenge for Bensouda.

Richard Dicker, Human Rights Watch's international justice specialist, said that in its first decade of existence "the ICC profile has been lifted on the world stage to a new level".

Al Jazeera questions ICC on Africa policy

He added that "as governments have recognised the role of the ICC in crises and conflicts, some have treated the court as an instrument to be invoked to achieve certain political ends".

Dicker said this trend is growing and will test the mettle of the new prosecutor and judges who will also be elected in New York this week.

Pressure also comes from major powers, with the US, China and Russia all trying to influence the court to varying degrees, even though they are not members, diplomats said.

However, Stephen Lamony, an Africa specialist for the Coalition for the ICC, a group of non-government groups that back the court, said Bensouda's appointment may not increase the court's acceptance within Africa.

"There are issues that different states have," he said. "The fact that the next prosecutor comes from Africa will make it more difficult for her, because she will face different pressures."

Some African nations have pressed for the UN Security Council to suspend the genocide action against Bashir, while Kenya lobbied fiercely against the investigation into its own unrest in 2007 to 2008.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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