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Fatou Bensouda is Gambian ‘Personality of the Year’

Jan 6, 2012, 1:12 PM

Gambian-born new chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been named as Gambian Personality of the Year 2011.

Fatou Bensouda, 50, was named by the Gambia News and Report weekly magazine because of what the management of the magazine said was its satisfaction that Bensouda has met the criteria for the award. “In view of  the exemplary strides you continue to make at the International Criminal Court resulting to your recent elevation to the top prosecutorial job of this highest Criminal Court of  the world.”

In a letter conveying the news of the award to Mrs. Bensouda, Swaebou Conateh, proprietor  of the Banjul-based Gambia Communication  Agency and Baroueli Enterprises, the publishers of the weekly magazine, stated:

“Your appointment to this position of huge responsibility and mammoth task was highly welcomed back home in The Gambia  with many Gambians seeing it as a great feat that will make this nation better  known around the world  and raise its flag high.”

“Your case illustrates possibilities for our individual citizens, particularly the educated womenfolk, who care enough about their country’s standing in today’s world, and about the promotion of  justice, rule of law and the fight against impunity.”

“By such example, you have earned for  yourself a name and an indelible place in not only our country’s history - as the first Gambian International Maritime law expert - but also for the continent - as the first African to be appointed as ICC Chief  Prosecutor,”  the publisher said.

Previous Men or  Gambians of The Year named by this paper were Amadou Samba, Pa Sallah Jagne (former IGP), Dr. Ebrima Samba (formerly of WHO), Late Dr. Lenrie Peters, Politican Lamin Waa Juwara,  Aja Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy (Vice-President), Bai Lamin Jobe (ex-Gamworks DG); Mrs. Harriet Ndow (educationist); Brikama Imam, Karamo Touray (late); Mr. Hassan Jallow (Justice); Ousman B. Conateh (Fisco); Muhammed Jah (Quantumnet); late Journalist Deyda Hydara; Pa Sallah Jeng (former Mayor of Banjul); Bolong Sonko and Mustapha Njie, alias Taf, (joint winners); President Yahya Jammeh; Dr. Isatou Touray (gender-activist); Kora Maestro Jaliba Kuyateh and former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.

The criteria for selection by the magazine include the following:

The person selected must be someone who, through his/her work, profession or personal endeavour, is judged to have contributed the most to the public welfare and to advancing the country’s development in the interest of all Gambians.

He or she must have contributed significantly in enhancing in a direct and tangible form, the social and economic status of Gambians as a whole.

He or she would have put in place for posterity facilities and or infrastructures and other achievements that can serve as a lasting memorial of his/her contributions to national development.

The Gambia News and Report magazine, which started publication as a monthly in February 1992, has since June 1996 been published weekly.

Bensouda was also awarded the 2011 World Peace through Law Award by the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute in Washington, United States.

She was also ranked as the 4th most influential African personality by Jeune Afrique, a French weekly magazine, which is bestowed upon an individual who, by his or her work and writings, has considerably advanced the rule of law and, thereby, contributed to world peace.

Established in 2006, the Award recognizes individuals who have achieved great distinction in the field of international law and international relations.

Born on 31 January 1961, Fatou received a bachelor-in-law degree from OAU University in Nigeria and a barrister in-law degree from the Nigeria Law School.

In addition, she holds a master’s degree in International Maritime Law and the Law of the Sea, which makes her the first international maritime law expert of The Gambia.

Bensouda was elected Deputy Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by the Assembly of States Parties in 2004 and since then has headed and overseen the Prosecution Division of  the Office of the Prosecutor.

Prior to her election, Bensouda served as Senior Legal Advisor and Head of the Legal Advisory Unit at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

In 2009, she received the International Jurists Award for her contributions to national and international criminal law. Before joining the ICTR, she was the General Manager of a leading commercial bank in the country. Between 1987 and 2000, she was successively Senior State Counsel, Principal State Counsel, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Solicitor General and Legal Secretary of the Republic of The Gambia, then Attorney General and Minister of Justice, in which capacity she served as Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet.

Mrs Bensouda also took part in negotiations on the treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Parliament and the ECOWAS Tribunal.

She has been a delegate at United Nations’ conferences on crime prevention, the Organization of African Unity’s Ministerial Meetings on Human Rights, and the delegate of The Gambia to the meetings of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court.