(JollofNews) – The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has rejected accusations that she has turned a blind eye on the gross human rights abuses being committed by the Gambian regime of President Yahya Jammeh.
The Gambian government has been criticised by right groups including Human Rights Watch of carrying out enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, and other human rights violations.
The regime is also accused of routinely targeting voices of dissent, including journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and critics, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
And although the ICC’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda has spoken out against right abuses in Burundi, Central Africa Republic and other African countries, activists have expressed disappointment at her continuous refusal to condemn the excesses of the Gambian regime.
But in an interview with Tim Sebastian of the German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), the Gambian born jurist said her silence about the human rights situation in the Gambia is due to the fact that the reported crimes in the West African country does not fall within her mandate.
“It is not my duty, my responsibility or doesn’t fall within my mandate particularly as prosecutor of the ICC to pronounce or to advise favourably or not any government including my government on political issues. I have not done it for any country and will not do it for my own country,” Mr Bom Bensounda said in the video which was made in January but posted online recently by Gambian activists.
The ICC prosecutor who served as attorney general, minister of Justice and chief adviser of President Jammeh’s regime added: “When I speak out and make a declared statement, am urging people not to commit crimes that falls within the jurisdiction of the ICC. This is my responsibility, I am not the commissioner for human rights.”
With regard to the Human Rights Watch report that crimes committed in the Gambia by state security forces and militias include arbitrary detention, torture, enforced disappearance and unlawful killings, Ms Bensouda explained: “I go after crimes that falls within my jurisdiction. ..Not all sorts of crimes. They have to be crimes that falls within the jurisdiction of the ICC. ..When we decide to look at situations where we feel that our crimes have been committed there are several issues that we look at including gravity warranting the intervention of the ICC.
She added: “As a prosecutor it is not about myself. It is about my legal mandate… I am not going to make pronouncements on political issues that are happening in countries.
“It should not be too difficult to understand that I am a prosecutor and under the Rome Statue, my crimes are war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. And those crimes even where they occur must satisfy the gravity threshold to warrant the intervention of the ICC.
“My court is not a court of human rights and I must remain independent. I must also remain impartial. I have been talking out where I can talk out and where I cannot I will not and I will not be dragged into saying something that can jeopardise my independence in future or my impartiality. That is why when this crimes happen in a place where I do not have jurisdiction I will not say anything.”