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ICC closely monitoring Ivory Coast situation says Deputy Prosecutor

Jan 6, 2011, 12:17 PM | Article By: Sainey MK Marenah

The International Criminal Court is closely monitoring the post-election crisis in Ivory Coast, Gambian-born deputy prosecutor of the court, Mrs Fatou Bom Bensouda, currently in Banjul, told The Point on Tuesday.

She was speaking shortly after attending a seminar organized by the Female Lawyers Association of The Gambia (FLAG) held at the American Corner along

Kairaba Avenue

The crisis in the world’s leading cocoa producer, which followed a 28th November 2010 election intended to reunify the country, is showing no sign of going down.

Opposition leader Alassan Ouattara was initially proclaimed the winner by the country’s election commission - a verdict backed by the UN, which helped organise the poll.

But the Constitutional Council, headed by an ally of incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, later ruled that Gbagbo had won, citing voting irregularities in the north of the country.

“The ICC has not yet taken any stance on the political situation in Ivory Coast that is currently ongoing. What we have done is for the prosecutor to use his preventive mandate to ensure that crime will not be committed, especially crimes against humanity, which falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC,” Bensouda said.

According to her, she and the ICC prosecutor have so far issued statements and made declarations calling on both parties in the Ivory Coast to ensure that crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC are not committed.

“We are observing every step taking place in Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast is not a state party to the Rome Statute, but it has made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and that means we can look into the situation in Ivory Coast. We have jurisdiction based on that declaration,” she added.

Dilating on what the ICC is doing to prosecute those who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, Bensouda said: “Jean Pierre Bemba was the vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and we have charged him with war crimes and crimes against humanity as the commander of his militia that invaded the Central African Republic.

“So the trial has started at the ICC, and the first witness which I had the privilege of taking, has been in court to give evidence, and we are continuing our presentation on that evidence, and I hope it will take us to the later part of year, when the defence will also present its evidence.”

In her view, the ICC is not a court of first instance. “It is a court of last resort, which means that the ICC will intervene in areas where the national systems are not doing anything. Then the ICC comes in, but also you have to understand that the ICC’s jurisdiction covers crimes like war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. This is what is in our statute,” she noted.

The ICC Deputy Prosecutor further stated that the court does not  just go around trying all the crimes committed around the world.

“It has to be genocide or war crimes and crime against humanity, and now aggression as soon as we complete our process in that regard,” she said, adding that the ICC’s intervention is limited to those people who bear the greatest responsibility.

She further stated: “There are so many things that people don’t understand about the ICC, and think that we will just go around the world and intervene in every situation. We cannot do that, because the court’s jurisdiction is limited to the states that have signed and ratified the Rome Statute that calls for the creation of the court”.

In conclusion, Bensouda called on states to sign and ratify the Rome Statute because, as she put it, the more universal the ICC statute is, the more it can intervene in various situations.

“The fact that the ICC is going to try those crimes does not mean that we will interfere with the sovereignty or jurisdiction of every state,” she emphasised.