The Reckoning

PBS Premiere: July 14, 2009Check the broadcast schedule »

Interview with Fatou Bensouda

In this additional video from The Reckoning, Fatou Bensouda, a deputy prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), talks about why she decided to work for the court and responds to criticism that the ICC is a European court investigating Africa, repeating the patterns of colonialism. Bensouda calls the criticism "unjustified" and explains why.


What led you to want to become a lawyer and, later, a prosecutor?

Fatou Bensouda:Particularly, one thing that really made me go into it was the fact that I realized that there were not many female lawyers. And I also saw that there were a lot of issues affecting gender and children, which I thought I should be able to play a huge part in presenting it before the court and standing up for them. And not — I'm not in any way saying that there are men who are not sensitive to these issues. But I thought, as a woman, I could really play a bigger role. I thought I could be more sensitive — or, maybe, understand these issues more. I mean, this was my conviction. And I said, yes. I think this is what I want to do.

And what do you think the role of the International Criminal Court is in the world today?

Bensouda:We share a common bond. This was something that is very important to the international community. And it is our duty to make sure that, you know, we preserve this bond that we have, that we share. Also, you see the millions of atrocities that have happened in this century, you know, and the fact that there ... there has been impunity, and people not being held responsible and accountable for these atrocities. I think perpetrators of these crimes do know that they can be held accountable. There is a court in existence now. A court is not going to be established after they have done whatever they have done. It is in existence. And I think that, in itself, sends a message that there is going to be accountability, and there is going to be... Impunity is going to end.

I'm sure you are very aware of the criticism of the court that it is a European court investigating African countries and it's a repeat of the colonial relationship. What do you say to those critics?

Bensouda:I think it's just unjustified. And when I say that it's unjustified, I always want to go back to the time that this court was created. One of the groups that had a very strong lobby for this court to be created was the Africa group. They wanted this court to be created, because Africa was also sending a signal that we also want to end impunity and through this court we think we can achieve that. And today, as we stand, in any continent, Africa has the largest number of countries in any one continent to be members of the court. It's a universal court. It's a global court. And people from all parts of the world are involved. The court has the rules and regulations have gone out to express how geographical, gender, and all this, has to be balanced in the court. And I will take myself as an example. I am a deputy prosecutor of the court. You know, I form part of the policy-making of this court. I am from Africa.

Can there be peace without justice?

Bensouda: I mean, we're now speaking... in general. I don't think there can be peace without justice. The mere fact that if there is peace negotiated without justice sends the message that people can commit atrocities and then are not held accountable. There cannot be true reconciliation, I don't think, unless the people who suffered are — at least are made to see that justice has been done for their suffering.

Do you wish the United States were a member of the International Criminal Court?

Bensouda: I wish that all states were a member (laughs) of the International Criminal Court, and not particularly just the United States. You know, as members — I mean, as a staff [member] of the court, and also as a member of the international community, I think the International Criminal Court is a good thing that has happened to the world. It's a very good thing. And I think the more countries subscribe to it, the better.

So when I look at it in terms of membership of the court, I look at more countries joining. And my focus is not necessarily on the U.S. But on the U.S., as a country, if it were to join the ICC, I think that would be good.

This additional video exclusive to the POV website is courtesy of Skylight Pictures.