THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Nov 20 – Fatou Bensouda assumed office as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in June 2012, and among cases she took over is that involving crimes against humanity committed following Kenya’s disputed election of 2007.
As she continues her second year in charge at the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), significant changes are set to take place over the manner in which investigations are conducted.
The approach to investigations in the Kenyan cases has been a sticking point, with defence lawyers accusing the OTP of shoddy work that led to the indictment of six individuals, who’ve now been whittled down to three.
And as 2013 comes to a close, ICC Prosecutor Bensouda has announced far reaching changes in the way her office conducts investigations into crimes that are handled by the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC).
On Wednesday, she categorically told delegates at the 12th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) that her office would endeavour to be trial-ready by the time of confirmation of charges.
“We are seeking to collect evidence from more varied sources and to use more sophisticated methods of investigation. Certainly, the demand on the office remains very high and will not decrease in the foreseeable future,” she told the ASP.
“At the policy level, we have moved to the concept of in-depth, open ended investigations, while still maintaining a clear investigative focus,” she emphasised.
In the Kenyan cases, charges were not confirmed against former Cabinet Minister Henry Kosgey, ex-police chief Hussein Ali. More recently, charges facing former Civil Service chief Francis Muthaura were dropped after witnesses withdrew.
Bensouda now says the OTP will expand and diversify its collection of evidence so as to meet the necessary thresholds of proof.
This may see limited investigation and prosecution of lower or mid level perpetrators, with a view to reaching those allegedly most responsible for the crimes.
Her office, she explained, will aim for an increase of the percentage of charges confirmed and its rate of conviction.
“Apart from improving the quality and efficiency of our investigations and prosecutions, and by extension our effectiveness, my office is endeavouring to place greater emphasis on the impact of its preliminary examinations.”
As part of this strategy, importance will be placed on a gender perspective in all areas of work, “and continue to pay particular attention to sexual and gender-based crimes and crimes against children.”
Under a new office structure, The Prosecution Division, the Investigations Division, and Jurisdiction Complementarity and Cooperation Division now report to the Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart.
In September, a Code of Conduct was aslo adopted for the Office of the Prosecutor.
“This detailed code provides clear guidelines for staff of the office to uphold an impeccable standard of professionalism, efficiency, independence and integrity in performing their respective duties and functions based on the court’s and the office’s regulatory instruments.”
But to achieve any level of success, Bensouda expects maximum cooperation by states parties.
“When the court intervenes in situations where states either cannot or will not exercise their primacy of jurisdiction, then states parties must support the court’s requests for assistance in a timely fashion, implement its decisions in the most effective manner possible, and ensure the prompt arrest of those for whom the court has issued warrants of arrest. I am seeking your active assistance to resolve any difficulties encountered by states parties to cooperate,” she implored.