Honorary Degree for Fatou Bensouda
Published on 23 June 2017
Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, received an honorary degree from the University of Dundee.
About Fatou Bensouda
Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, today received an honorary degree from the University of Dundee.
Ms Bensouda has led the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC in The Hague since 2012. Her office investigates and prosecutes cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Her work at the ICC has pioneered the establishment of the Scienti?c Advisory Board with the initial brief to oversee the development of speci?c forensic science related standard operating procedures for investigators.
She received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the first of the University’s annual summer graduation ceremonies this morning. Ms Bensouda’s laureator was Niamh Nic Daeid, Professor of Forensic Science and Director of the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science and Director of research for the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification.
Ms Bensouda said, “It is an honour to be recognised by such a prestigious university. Since establishing the Scienti?c Advisory Board I have been grateful to Professor Nic Daeid for the advice she has provided with regards to the scientific presentation of evidence in the courtroom. I am pleased to accept this honour personally and on behalf of the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and international criminal justice in general.”
Prior to her work at the International Criminal Court, Ms Bensouda worked as Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of The Legal Advisory Unit.
Before joining the ICTR, she was General Manager of a leading commercial bank in The Gambia, her home country. Between 1987 and 2000, she was successively Senior State Counsel, Principal State Counsel, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Solicitor General and Legal Secretary of the Republic, and Attorney General and Minister of Justice, in which capacity she served as Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet of The Republic of The Gambia.
Ms Bensouda also took part in negotiations on the treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the West African Parliament and the ECOWAS Tribunal. She has served as delegate to United Nations conferences on crime prevention, the Organization of African Unity's Ministerial Meetings on Human Rights, and as delegate of The Gambia to the meetings of the Preparatory Commission for the International Criminal Court.
Professor Nic Daeid said, “The work Ms Bensouda has undertaken as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in bringing to account the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity is world-leading.
“She has committed herself to bring the full force of the law to systematically, consistently and firmly ensure that the perpetrators of these most heinous crimes are punished and that the victims are recognised and listened to. The University of Dundee is extremely privileged to confer this honorary degree.”
Laureation address given by Professor Niamh Nic Daeid
Below is the laureation address given by Professor Niamh Nic Daeid on the occasion of the award of a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa to Mrs Fatou Bensouda on the 21st June, 2017 at the University of Dundee:
"Chancellor, I have the honour to present for the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, Mrs Fatou Bensouda.
Fatou Bensouda grew up in Banjul, the capital of the Republic of Gambia, a tiny west African country bordering on Senegal. The Republic of Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa with a population of just over 2 Million people, less than half the population of Scotland.
Since she was a young schoolgirl, Mrs Bensouda felt powerfully driven by a sense of right and wrong and deeply concerned about the issues of justice and fairness and that people should be held to account for their actions.
This interest in justice prevailed as she grew older and she confesses that as a high school student, she used to sneak into the nearby courts to observe the court proceedings.
Through those early observations she became aware that men and women were not always treated the same way and that women did not always receive the protective embrace of the law that they perhaps deserved.
These early experiences of the Justice process were partly the driving force that inspired her to pursue a career in the law and were a foundation to the development of her lifelong ambition to contribute to, and to serve, justice and, in particular, to promote and seek a fairness in the delivery of justice for women and for children.
After finishing high school, Mrs Bensouda moved to Nigeria and obtained her Bachelor of Laws and then her Barrister-at-law professional qualification. In 1987, she returned to the Gambia to begin her career as a public prosecutor in the Attorney General’s Office. She rose to the rank of Deputy General for Public Prosecutions, then served as Solicitor general and finally as Attorney General and Justice minister of the Gambia between 1998 and 2000.
In 2002 she first came to prominence on the international legal stage as legal adviser and Trial Attorney at the prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, known as ICTR. The ICTR oversaw the prosecution and bringing to justice of those responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide where between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people lost their lives in just 100 days.
Mrs Bensouda rose to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of the Legal Advisory Unit of the ICTR where she gained both reputation and respect for her investigations of the Rwandan atrocities.
In 2004 she joined the International Criminal Court – the world’s only permanent war crimes court – first as a Deputy Prosecutor and in 2012 was appointed Prosecutor of the ICC, the first woman and the first African to lead the International Criminal Court.
Her duties include the investigation and prosecution of some of the most heinous crimes perpetrated at National and International level. These include genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and more recently the crime of aggression where an individual plans, initiates or executes an act of aggression using state military force that violates the charter of the Unities Nations.
She very quickly had the idea of constituting a scientific advisory board for the ICC with a vision that such a body should bring together the leaders of international forensic science and forensic medical networks from across the Globe to lend their guidance and expertise to the work of the Court.
This was not a trivial undertaking as the relationship between scientists and lawyers is not always a comfortable one. We speak different languages and more often than not, meet each other only in the theatre of the Court which, I can assure you, for the scientific expert at least, is not always a comfortable experience.
Mrs Bensouda’s formidable powers of persuasion meant that the international scientific community, of course, responded overwhelmingly positively. The scientific advisory board, now in its fourth year of operation, take seriously their role as a critical friend to the Office of the Prosecutor providing advice and guidance in relation to the gathering of scientific evidence of sufficient quality so that it can be of service to the Court. As such the relationship between law and science, often challenging, is being nurtured and developed at this most significant international interface.
Mrs Bensouda has made it an explicit strategic goal of the ICC to do whatever is in its power and mandate to address sexual violence which unfortunately often affects the most vulnerable groups in society many of whom are women and are children. She has committed herself to bring the full force of the law to systematically, consistently and firmly ensure that the perpetrators of these most heinous crimes are punished and that the victims are recognised and listened to.
Of her role as prosecutor, she has said
“What I have put at the forefront, always, are the victims of these atrocity crimes. I have been placed in a position where I can at least do something. You have that at the back of your mind that there must be justice, there must be accountability for these crimes.”
Mrs Bensouda continues to have a distinguished career in law on the International stage. She continues to be a champion and a voice for International justice and works tirelessly to ensure that the victims of the most horrible crimes imaginable have their voices heard, their experiences listened to and acknowledged and that they receive the justice that they deserve as the perpetrators of the crimes committed against them are held accountable for their actions.
She is a principled woman of great integrity, an aspirational role model and a true beacon for international justice.
Chancellor, I have the honour to invite you to confer upon Mrs Fatou Bensouda the degree of Doctor of Laws."
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