UNITED NATIONS — Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, is about to face her toughest trial yet: to demonstrate that the court has enough muscle to tackle the gravest human rights cases, even if it means confronting the world’s most powerful countries.
Since its inception in 2002, the court has been laden with a growing pile of cases, defiant government authorities, and a United Nations Security Council that has called for investigations but done little to advance them. The court has convicted a tiny fraction of those it has charged. Many more have eluded arrest altogether, and the prosecutor has battled charges of bias against African leaders — a charge that Ms. Bensouda, a Gambian, has strenuously rebutted.
Ms. Bensouda, who assumed her job in June 2012, has had to acknowledge her own limitations in recent months. In December, she announced that she would “hibernate” the genocide case against Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, because she had been unable to secure his arrest. The same month, she said she would drop charges against Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, for his role in the violence that swept the country following the 2007 elections, citing his government’s lack of cooperation with her office.
The year ahead brings far more formidable challenges and with them the opportunity to assert the relevance of the court.
The Palestinian situation is no doubt the most politically delicate item on her agenda. Palestine joined the I.C.C. last week, and authorized the prosecutor to scrutinize alleged crimes committed on Palestinian land since last June, before the last Gaza conflict began. Israel and its principal ally, the United States, have forcefully criticized the Palestinian move, and even a preliminary inquiry by her office is likely to face a pushback, including from Washington.
Additionally, Ms. Bensouda has said she is looking into allegations of torture by American soldiers in Afghanistan. There’s a chance, albeit slim, that she could go further and open an official investigation…
Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? – NYTimes.com
January 12, 2015