AMSTERDAM - The International Criminal Court installed Gambian war crimes lawyer Fatou Bensouda as its new prosecutor for a nine-year term Friday.
Bensouda replaces Luis Moreno-Ocampo in a post that has become one of the most prominent in international law during the past decade. She will be try to bring to justice alleged war criminals, including Uganda’s Joseph Kony, Libya’s Seif al-Islam Khadafy, and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.
In an address to the court, Bensouda said she was “humbled’’ by her appointment and promised to continue pursuing all cases that fall under the court’s jurisdiction.
“As I speak, massive crimes continue to be committed in Darfur [Sudan]; Joseph Kony, and the Lord’s Resistance Army’s acts of violence continue unabated in central Africa,’’ she said.
“Nothing short of arresting all those against whom warrants have been issued will ensure that justice is done for millions of victims of the crimes committed by these fugitives.’’
Court president Sang-Hyun Song oversaw Bensouda’s acceptance of the prosecutor’s duties in the Hague, Netherlands.
The International Criminal Court was founded in 2002 as the permanent successor to numerous ad-hoc war crimes tribunals set up during the past two decades such as the UN Yugoslav tribunal and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
Bensouda has served as deputy prosecutor at the ICC since 2004.
In her address, she said that Moreno-Ocampo set up the prosecutor’s office in 2003 with “two staff members . . . six empty floors, and no cases ongoing.’’
“I inherit a well-respected and sound functioning office, with almost 300 staff from 80 countries, seven situations under investigation, 14 cases before the chambers, seven preliminary examinations, and one verdict.’’
In March, trial judges handed down the court’s first conviction, that of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, for conscripting child soldiers.
In an interview earlier this month, Bensouda responded to several criticisms against the prosecutor and the court, including that it is a political tool of Western powers and that all its current cases involve Africa.
“First of all, let me say that yes, I am an African and I am very proud of that,’’ she said.
“But I am a prosecutor for 121 states parties,’’ she said, referring to all the countries that endorse the court.
She said she would investigate any grave crime in any territory that falls under her jurisdiction.