Profile: Gambia's Fatou Bensouda, candidate for ICC prosecutor
Dec 2, 2011, 14:29 GMT
Johannesburg/New York - Fatou Bensouda of Gambia is expected to be elected the next International Criminal Court prosecutor, the first African woman to lead the court as it deals with major cases from Africa.
The ICC's Assembly of State Parties, which signed the Rome Statute establishing the court, is expected to elect her on December 12 when it holds its annual meetings in New York. She is expected to replace Luis Moreni-Ocampo next year after serving as his deputy since 2004.
Bensouda was born in the Gambia in 1961, when the country was still a British colony. The West African country remains one of the least developed in the world, with a majority of people living in rural villages and depending on agriculture for their survival.
Her first degrees were obtained at a Nigerian university and she remains a member of that country's bar association. She rose to prominence after becoming Gambia's first-ever international maritime law expert, earning an advanced degree in Malta.
She returned to Gambia in the 1980s, first working in the private sector and then becoming a public prosecutor. She moved up the ranks quickly, leading the attorney general's office before eventually winning her seat in the country's cabinet in the quasi-ministerial role of chief legal advisor.
As one of Gambia's top legal minds, Bensouda led delegations to committees that were forming the ICC, which was officially established in 2002. During those years she also helped draft the foundations of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), an increasingly important regional bloc.
She worked for two years on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is based in Tanzania. The tribunal deals with war crimes committed during the 1994 genocide.
In 2004, an overwhelming majority of ICC members elected her deputy prosecutor.
She headed up the ICC's prosecution division, traveling extensively to countries where serious violations of international law were allegedly committed, particularly in Africa.
The ICC has faced high-level criticism that it is overly focused on Africa.
'It is important to have Africans acting as prosecutors or working for the court or with the court in some capacity or another,' Bensouda said in 2009.
'The last perception we want to see is for it to be thought that ICC is just targeting Africa,' she said, adding that she hopes the organ will be seen as a 'truly international court.'
Bensouda has three children and is married to a businessman.