“I am an African I am proud of that. But…it is not because I am an African that I was chosen for this position. I think my track record speaks for myself…” – Fatou Bensouda
Gambian lawyer, Fatou Bensouda became the first woman and first African to hold the office of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) when she was sworn in on June 15, 2012.
Fatou’s decision to pursue a career in law arose from a feeling of helplessness after being turned back at the police station where she and an older relative had gone to report a matter. The relative was being repeatedly victimized by her abusive husband and when they reported, they were told by the police that they could not “interfere with family matter.”
Born in Banjul the capital city of The Gambia into a polygamous family on January 31, 1961; Fatou had her early education in her native country before heading out to Nigeria to study Law at the University of Ife, now known as Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife.
Fatou Bensouda was called to the bar at the Nigerian Law School, before going on to obtain a Masters in International Maritime Law and Law of the Sea from the International Maritime Law Institute in Malta in 1991. With that she became the first Gambian expert on international maritime law.
After her call to the bar in 1987, Fatou Bensouda returned to The Gambia. From then on, she was Senior State Counsel, Principal State Counsel, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, and Solicitor General and Legal Secretary of the Republic, before assuming the office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice in 1998, serving as Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet of the Republic of The Gambia.
Fatou Bensouda had a brief stint as General Manager of a bank in The Gambia in 2002, before joining the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as a Legal Advisor and Trial Attorney, rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of Legal Advisory Unit. Two years later, she was elected with an overwhelming majority by the Assembly of State Parties as ICC Deputy Prosecutor (Prosecutions).
“…over the past 10 years, the ICC has come to symbolize the last, best hope for justice. We look to Bensouda’s leadership to advance cases, build bridges with victims, and push countries to support its impartial application of the law to get the job done.” – Richard Dicker (Human Rights Watch)
“The ‘helpful’ thing about Bensouda is that merit and political expediency go hand in hand. She is a woman, she is African and she is considered to be highly capable.” – Rebecca Lowe (International Bar Association)
“I am confident that her strong independent voice, legal expertise and genuine concern for human rights issues will contribute greatly to the continued fight against impunity.” – Sang-Hyun Song (former President of the ICC)
Married with three children, one of whom was adopted, Fatou Bensouda was elected by consensus for a 9-year term as the new Prosecutor of the ICC by the Assembly of State Parties on the 12th of December 2011. She was sworn in to office on June 15, 2012.
Afro Tourism salutes this great heroine, human rights advocate, legal luminary, African hero and national icon, Mrs. Fatou Bensouda!
Did You Know?
- Fatou Bensouda was born in Banjul on the 31st of January 1961.
- She is an alumnus of the prestigious Nigerian institution, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife which was then known as the University of Ife.
- Fatou was raised in a polygamous home. Her father had two wives and about a dozen children.
- She served as Attorney General and Minister of Justice of The Gambia from 1998 to 2000.
- Fatou Bensouda took part in negotiations on the treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
- She has also served as delegate to United Nations conferences on crime prevention, the African Union’s Ministerial Meetings on Human Rights, and meetings of the Preparatory Commission for the ICC as a delegate of The Gambia.
- Her international career started when she joined the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as a Legal Advisor and Trial Attorney in 2002.
- She is married to a Gambian-Moroccan businessman, Philip Bensouda.
- In 2009, Fatou Bensouda received the International Court of Justice (ICJ) International Jurist Award for her contributions to criminal law, both at national and international level.
- She also bagged the 2011 World Peace Through Law Award in recognition of her work in considerably advancing the rule of law and thereby contributing to world peace.
- In 2012, Fatou Bensouda succeeded Luis Moreno-Ocampo to become the first woman and first African to hold the office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- She was listed by Time® magazine among the 100 Most Influential People in the World (2012).
- Jeune Afrique® listed her as the 4th Most Influential Personality in Africa in the Civil Society Category, and among the 100 Most Influential Personalities in Africa.
- In 2013, Foreign Policy® ranked her among Leading Global Thinkers.
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