TRIED UHURU, RUTO

Politics did not influence my work at ICC — Bensouda

Says she chose unequivocally to be on the side of the victims

In Summary

• The Gambian-born Bensouda will retire in June.  British lawyer Karim Khan will be the new prosecutor starting June 16.

• Bensouda prosecuted the ICC case involving President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague. Photo/REUTERS
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague. Photo/REUTERS

International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said she had to shut out the political noise to do her job effectively. 

Bensouda told a forum on Friday that politics did not prevent her from making sound determinations during her nine-year stint. 

“There will always be politics around us, but politics does not and should never figure in the decision-making of the ICC Prosecutor. That is how I have led my office,” she said.

The prosecutor said a person can choose whom to side with when cases come to the ICC. 

"One can choose to be on the side of the perpetrators or the victims of atrocities. I chose unequivocally to be on the side of the victims,” she said.

The Gambian-born Bensouda will retire in June.  British lawyer Karim Khan will be the new prosecutor starting June 16.

Bensouda prosecuted the ICC case involving President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto. Khan led Ruto's defence. 

Ruto was charged with crimes against humanity alongside journalist Joshua Sang and Henry Kosgey.

The charges also applied to Uhuru, Francis Muthaura, and former police commissioner Mohammed Hussein Ali.

The ‘Hague Six’ were accused of murder, deportation or forcible transfer of population, persecution, rape, and other inhumane acts during the poll chaos.

ICC terminated the case against Ruto and Sang on April 5, 2016, about a year after President Kenyatta’s, which was dropped on March 13, 2015.

When she dropped the charges, Bensouda said Uhuru's rise to the presidency was the key factor that led to the collapse of her case against him.

Bensouda said after Uhuru became President, witnesses refused to testify while the government stopped cooperating with the ICC.

She was reflecting on the collapse of the case against Uhuru in a documentary titled 'Kenya: A Guidebook to Impunity' hosted by human rights activist Maina Kiai.

"After the elections and when they came to power, the case changed a lot. Now we are faced with a situation where the people we have already charged are now the leaders in Kenya," she said. 

 Bensouda said Ruto's case was severely undermined by witness interference and politicisation of the judicial process.

The decision further noted that other evidence may have been available to the prosecution “had it been able to prosecute the case in a different climate, less hostile to the Prosecution, its witnesses and the Court in general.”

Seventeen witnesses who had agreed to testify against the suspects withdrew their cooperation with the court. 

ICC alleged intimidation, social isolation and threats to witnesses to prevent them from testifying.