(JollofNews) – The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, has said that the Hague-based court is monitoring the ongoing political crisis in the Gambia.
The Gambian born jurist has been criticised by some Gambians in the diaspora for turning a blind eye to the Gambian regime’s heavy-handed crackdown on members of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) and the reported death in custody of Solo Sandeng, national organising secretary on 14 April.
But speaking for the first time since the protest began, Mrs Bensouda reminded Gambians that while her court has territorial jurisdiction in the Gambia and is monitoring the situation in the West African state, it does not interfere in political affairs of any country.
“What we at the ICC look for is war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide which is the mandate of the institution and this is what has to be understood,” Mrs Bensouda said in an interview with Sheriff Bojang Jr of the Dakar-based West Africa Democracy Radio (WADR).
She explained that: “These crimes have their specific elements and we look at them very closely to see whether those elements are present. It has to be clear that the ICC is not a human rights court but a court that deals with specific crimes under the Rome statue.
“The court also does not interfere in the political affairs of any country. You have never heard me as prosecutor made any statement regarding the political situation of any country. We always address the fact that crimes have been committed or are about to be committed and this is due to the assessment that we make to collect information and assess them to see that ICC crimes are likely to be committed.
“For example, in Nigeria we collected information and had evidences that crimes were likely to happen that is why I made a statement. And in this case you also have to look into the gravity of the crimes that has been committed or that are likely to be committed so we look into that threshold.”
The former Gambian attorney general and Justice minister added that while she is a Gambian, she is not sitting on the prosecutor’s seat as a Gambian but as prosecutor of the ICC with specific mandate.
She stated: ” As prosecutor, I should not treat any state or country differently and because I am a Gambian I should not regard myself as a Gambian. I am a prosecutor and this is why am sitting here.
“Those that reacted to President Jammeh’s threat of burying his critics ‘nine feet deep’ did so based on human rights, my mandate is crime and if these crimes have been committed it would have been different. We are assessing what is going on in the Gambia but it is not yet the time for the prosecutor of the ICC to make a statement.
“I don’t feel embarrassed as I know all these criticisms are due to a lack of knowledge of what I do as a prosecutor of the ICC and how the Court functions in accordance with its legal mandate.”