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Those urging me to issue a statement on Gambia are not more patriotic than me - ICC Prosecutor

Those urging me to issue a statement on Gambia are not more patriotic than me – ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bom Bensouda

In an interview aired on kibaaro radio and other sister Gambian online radios the ICC prosecutor Madam Fatou Bom Bensouda defended her position on why ICC has not issued a statement on Gambia. In the interview that was conducted by Tijan Masanneh ceesay the ICC prosecutor cited the Rome statute and deliberated on the mandate of ICC to clarify why she has not issued a statement on Gambia since the political upheaval started in April on events leading to the scheduled December 2016 presidential elections.  According to her the ICC is not a human rights body but a judicial body and she has no mandate to issue a statement each time human rights abuses are reported in any given country.

The ICC prosecutor who hails from Banjul, the Gambia has recently come under fire for remaining silent and not issuing statement on the political crises in the country like she did on Burundi, Nigeria, Sudan and Kenya.  Gambian activists have been mad with the prosecutor over her silence on Gambia accusing her of being a former enabler of the current dictatorship in the country. Madam Bensouda once served as minister of Justice under the leadership of the current Gambian government and was sacked from her ministerial position and later on secured the position of ICC prosecutor. Madam Prosecutor’s response to those Gambian activists urging her to issue a statement on Gambia is that they are not more patriotic than her and argues that when all conditions are met for her to issue a statement on Gambia she will issue a statement.  “That I’m a national of Gambia doesn’t permit me to fulfill my role in any differently than I would do in another situation” reiterated Madam Prosecutor.

According Madam Bom Bensouda the bases of the statements she issues as prosecutor is article 25 1,2 of the Rome statute as well as the specific references to the preventive mandate of the court in the preamble of the Rome statue which states as follows: – Determined to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes. She pointed out that her  office is aware of the recent events in the Gambia and in particular they are aware of the death in custody of an opposition activist. “In fact as soon as I heard the media report I assigned my team to assess the situation. I did that because in every state party to the ICC when any of these events are happening on their territories we monitor closely and we try to assess what is going on” buttressed the prosecutor.

She further elaborated that  her professional obligation demand that she apply the Rome statute, the legal framework of the Rome statute and to apply it consistently, to apply it independently and to apply it impartially and that is how she conducts herself without exception.  She said that she do issue statements  but only in specific circumstances namely;  when her office sees that there is tangible risk of war crimes, crimes against humanity or other crimes that are committed on a large-scale they issue these statements.    “The situation in Gambia has not reached that point yet. If it was to be the case for instance further arrests were to result in further deaths in custody I would have robustly voiced  my concerned as I did in other situations when this was required “  Madam Prosecutor further emphasized.

Despite the death in custody of an opposition activist and the dangerous threat of ethnic cleansing issued by the president of the republic of the Gambia the ICC prosecutor  still believes the time is not yet right for her to issue a statement or warning to those at the helm of power in Gambia. The whole world is watching and history is recording.

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