Bensouda said this last week in Cape Town at the Open Forum 2012 conference — whose theme was “Money, Power and Sex: The paradox of unequal growth”. He was asked about the ICC’s view on a South African High Court ruling last month which required the South African government to investigate Zimbabwean officials linked to acts of state-sanctioned torture.
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was on Wednesday sentenced to 50 years in prison by an ICC court at The Hague in the Netherlands over his role in atrocities committed in Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s.
Elsewhere a former member of the European parliament, Glenys Kinnock who was minister of State for Africa in the last Labour government, last week questioned why the British government was not pushing for President Robert Mugabe’s prosecution at the ICC for “crimes against humanity”.
According to Kinnock, Mugabe should be investigated and subsequently indicted by the ICC over the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s; also continued state-sponsored violence against political opponents and ongoing atrocities in the diamond fields in Zimbabwe. There was evidence of his responsibility, she said.
In response, the British Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, David Howell said Zimbabwe was not party to the Rome Statute and to get an ICC charge against him would require a UN Security Council resolution.
He said permanent UN members like China and Russia were reluctant “to see these matters taken up by the UN and remitted to the ICC for charges” which meant people “who have committed unsavoury acts” were outside the reach of the ICC.
The South African case was brought before the High Court by the South African Litigation Centre (Salc) and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (Zef)
Bensouda said: “I just want to congratulate you and the team that these steps are being taken to address ICC products. This just demonstrates how much can be done when the Roman Statute is ratified, especially in the case of South Africa which has both ratified and domesticated it— how much can be done to address the serious crimes against humanity and genocide.”
She added: “It also demonstrates that even if the state has not ratified this statute, if you commit the crimes you are not entirely out of the loop for these crimes to be addressed. This is a great initiative that has been taken and I understand that there is an appeal which is coming. We are looking forward to seeing how far this can go — it is a great step and great initiative especially within the law.”
Zimbabwe has ruled out ratifying the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, accusing the body of targeting Africans. It fears becoming a full member of the ICC could precipitate the indictment of Mugabe and other senior officials for alleged crimes against humanity.
Bensouda, however, criticised influential individuals who used the “pro-West” and “anti-Africa” mantra to lobby for non-support of the UN criminal court.
“Anti-ICC elements have been working very hard to discredit the court and to lobby for non-support and they are doing this with complete disregard to legal arguments,” she said.
“With due respect, what offends me most when I hear criticism about the so-called African bias is how quick we are to focus on the words and propaganda of a few powerful and influential individuals and forget about the millions of anonymous people who suffer from these crimes because all the victims are African victims.
“Indeed the greatest offence to victims of brutal and unimaginable crimes — women and young girls raped, families brutalised and robbed of everything and entire communities terrorised and shattered – is to see these powerful individuals responsible for their suffering trying to portray themselves as the victims of the pro-West and anti-African court.”