Last week Fatou Bensouda, just hours before her retirement as prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, released the results of her investigation regarding the alleged extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte in the furtherance of his war against drugs.
According to Bensouda there exists a “reasonable basis to believe that the Crime Against Humanity of murder was committed” in the Philippines, thus, the case is now submitted for formal trial. And of course, the number one suspect is no less than the country’s president.
While I have no idea what was her basis in arriving at such findings (which I will discuss later), I believe the bigger question would be is not the basis of her conclusion of the case but the very reason why she was picked as prosecutor for the ICC in the first place.
Bensouda comes from the Republic of Gambia, a country in Africa besieged by massive cases of human rights violations.
According to the World Health Organization, 78.3 percent of Gambian girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation, some sort of female circumcision which is being forced on them.
A reporter, Ebrima Manneh, was said to have been arrested in July 2006 Gambia's National Intelligence Agency after attempting to republish a BBC report criticizing President Yahya Jammeh and was supposedly held secretly in custody since then. And in 2019, the Gambian newspaper The Trumpet reported that Manneh had died in captivity at some point in mid-2008.
Now, does coming from a country beset by human rights problems make her the most qualified for the post of prosecutor in the ICC? I don’t think so as this could even prejudiced her cause against strongman rulers.
But there's more to being prejudiced as her credibility when it comes to human rights matters is being questioned by a Philippine senator.
According to Senator Francis Tolentino, Bensouda was included in the specifically designated national or SDN list of the US government under President Trump.
Bensouda was previously sanctioned by the Trump government, which accused the ICC of targeting Americans after she was deemed an SDN by the US Treasury and was grouped alongside terrorists and narcotics traffickers.
“Bensouda as a US designated ‘terrorist’ was considered as a threat to US national security and foreign and economic policies and though a former bank manager, her financial transactions and those dealing with her were blocked by the US Treasury,” Tolentino noted.
“How can she during her tenure objectively conduct an investigation when some members of the international community considered her as persona non grata for terrorist links?” he stressed.
Right on point.
Lawyer Larry Gadon, however, has a different appreciation for Bensouda’s last-minute release of her findings.
For Gadon, Bensouda’s ulterior motive was money, or the salaries, wages, allowances, travel benefits, representation expenses, and benefits and privileges she was set to receive, and this served as her driving force in pursuing the case.
“She has to make it appear she was working to justify continuously receiving her salaries, wages and other allowances from the ICC,” said Gadon.
In turn, Gadon says the ICC must continue to pursue high-profile cases such as the Duterte case to justify its existence and the flow of donations to its coffer.
Gadon stresses that the primary complainant in the case against Duterte, lawyer Jude Sabio, has already withdrawn his complaint and had personally admitted his sworn affidavit which he submitted to the ICC was nothing but a manufactured statement and that all the accusations he raised were nothing but tall tales.
So, what exactly was Bensouda’s basis in coming up with such findings?
With no basis or any complaint to stand on, or with her credibility as terribly incredible as Sabio’s sworn statement, are we now to believe in the accuracy of Bensouda’s findings?
In a scene in the Star Wars movie, when Obi Wan Kenobi took the young Anakin Skywalker under his wings, Grandmaster Yoda could be heard saying, “An apprentice training an apprentice,” as Obi Wan Kenobi has yet to finish his Jedi training.
In the matter of the ICC case against Duterte, it is a situation wherein a suspect – Bensouda as she has been suspected of having links with terrorists and narcotics traffickers by the US government, plus the fact her motive is now being subjected to doubts, is investigating another suspect – Duterte, for alleged state-sponsored killings.