Fatou Bensouda: From dictator's legal adviser to ICC chief prosecutor

Analysis: The woman who used to advise an authoritarian president in her native Gambia is now set to launch a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes against the Palestinians; in the past, however, she has been considered an Israel ally
Tamar Sebok, Daniel Bettini |
The Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda announced on Friday she is ready to investigate whether Israel was committing war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.
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  • Although the Gambia native has had a long and distinguished career, many don't know some interesting details about her fruitful past. For instance, she served as a legal adviser for one of the most ruthless dictators in the world.
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    ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
    ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
    ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda
    (Photo: AFP)
    More importantly, Bensouda was once considered to be a firm ally of the State of Israel. In 2010 she faced immense pressure to investigate Israel following the Gaza flotilla raid that left nine foreign activists killed on one of the ships and 10 IDF soldiers wounded.
    She again fought off extreme pressure to investigate Israel back in 2014, following the Gaza war known as Operation Protective Edge.
    Gambia's justice minister
    Fifty-eight-year-old Bensouda was born in the African country of Gambia and in 1987 was appointed as state counsel and deputy director of public prosecutions by former Gambian Prime Minister Dawda Jawara.
    In 1994, a military coup drove Jawara into exile and a military junior officer Yayah Jammeh took control of the country. The new leader was living a lavish and decadent lifestyle, crushing opposition, suppressing the country's LGBT community, and effectively eliminating women's rights.
    Jammeh, nevertheless, chose Bensouda as his solicitor general and legal adviser in 1994, a position which she held for two years. In August 1998 she became Gambia's justice minister, before being dismissed in March 2000.
    Her time under Jammeh's rule has earned Bensouda a fair share of criticism, with many accusing her of turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Gambian dictator.
    Additionally, there are those who claim that Bensouda's work under Jammeh should not have allowed her to be considered for such a prestigious position in the Hague.
    On the other hand, Bensouda is continuously praised by many around the world, including human rights groups, as an adamant justice seeker, who works tirelessly to preserve the rights of people even when faced with a dictatorship.
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