By Kebba Secka and Rohey Jadama reporting from the Hague
The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda has said that the current government of the Gambia had not made any formal communication of human rights violations or crimes against humanity. She also said that acts of a defiant US government would not deter the work of the ICC. She said this during a visit by a group of West African journalists to The Hague, Kingdom of Netherlands on Thursday. We bring to you the full text of what she said on these two issues below:
Question: Has your office received communication of rights violations in the Gambia, if yes, have those issues been processed and analyzed by your office to establish whether those violations reach the threshold to open an investigation?
Madam Prosecutor: “May be first of all, let me try to respond with respect to the current government which has taken over from former President Jammeh. We’ve not received any communication from the current government regarding allegation of crimes that have been committed in the Gambia. We’ve not. What we have seen is that members the current government are making some tremendous efforts to look into issues of accountability by first starting with the setting up of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC). I’m aware that one of the mandates of the Commission is to look at accountability issues, and at the end of it, be able to gauge whether crimes or alleged atrocities can also be charged; and I think, this is progressing very well from the little I’m able to follow.
As you may know that with the ICC and with my office, we do receive information all the time from various sources but currently with this government, we’ve not received any information and that for the information received, in fact, my office has already started looking very closely into it but in the end it wasn’t sufficient.
What we know now in the course of the TRRC and other information we did not know then and it did not arrive at criteria where my office will make determination to say I’m going to open preliminary investigation into a situation where we did not receive sufficient information. The information was very scanty and sometimes, there was no backing of the information and as you know before we take any step, we have to always need to verify the information carefully, correctly before going to the next phase.
Foroyaa: With regard to investigation in Afghanistan, has the Prosecutor been given authority to open investigation, or what’s the position of ICC in the situation of Afghanistan?
Madam Prosecutor: “We’re waiting for the judges’ decision because we’ve to communicate to the judges to see whether they will authorise it or not. On the America’s revocation of ICC visa, no matter, who you’re, however powerful should not be above the Law. That is a promise that we have to keep and with respect to the work that we do, of course, there will always be resistance, but as I always say we will always have resistance to the work we’re doing, because it always touches on powerful people.
In my investigation, I think in 2017, I requested the Pre-trial Chamber to authorise me to open investigation in Afghanistan. The Chamber has not yet authorised that investigation to happen but I believe, this is the (US) reaction. This is how the US is reacting. In fact, that was what was publicly announced. They (US) have already announced that there will be visa restrictions against the ICC staff including myself. Even my visa has been revoked already but I believe with respect to my UN obligations, I believe, I will be able to get visa to go and conduct that business in the US. But this is not deterring us, we said this publicly, it cannot deter us from doing our work. This is the work of the ICC under the Rome Statute; the obligations, duties and responsibilities as a Prosecutor where I am meant to open an investigation. We cannot pick and choose because of any reason. We’ve to follow strictly, guided by the Rome Statute and this is what we’re trying to do. So far, my office is engaging, as well as the UN, in looking into this matter. We’re trying to get as much information as possible to be able to determine what are the next steps. We’ve been engaging since the announcement was made and we’re trying to see what can be done but with respect to our work, investigation and prosecution, this is not what will stop us. We’ll continue on the efforts.