Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda was sworn in as the International Criminal Court's (ICC) new Chief Prosecutor in The Hague.
Bensouda takes over from Luis Moreno Ocampo after serving as the ICC's Deputy Prosecutor on Prosecutions since 2004.
Fifty-one-year-old Bensouda, the first woman and African to head the team of prosecutors at the U.N.-backed tribunal, said at a swearing-in ceremony in The Hague on Friday that she was ready to lead the fight against the world's worst war criminals.
Ahead of taking office, Bensouda set out a number of priorities that she will pursue during her term, including reviewing the quality and efficiency of investigations and prosecutions, developing a strong gender policy and clarifying the process through which the office selects where it will conduct investigations.
Inauguration of Bensouda as the second-ever ICC Prosecutor signals a new era in international justice and the potential for a more robust approach to their prosecution strategy, Amnesty International said as she began her nine-year term.
"Prosecutor Ocampo has achieved a great deal in establishing the Office of the Prosecutor over the last nine years and hands over a large workload of seven investigations and a number of on-going cases," said Marek Marczynski, Amnesty's head of International Justice.
A number of significant political challenges await the Prosecutor. In recent years, the African Union has taken measures that undermine the ICC - including refusing to cooperate with the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir - citing concerns that the ICC is only targeting Africans.
Other states meanwhile, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom are insisting on budget cuts that threaten to undermine the ICC's work.
Amnesty said ICC must be given sufficient resources to conduct its work effectively.
The ICC is currently investigating 15 cases in seven African countries -- Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, the Darfur region of Sudan and Uganda. It is examining allegations of crimes in seven other situations in order to determine whether to open investigations: Afghanistan, Colombia, Georgia, Guinea, South Korea, Honduras and Nigeria.
ICC judges have issued 20 arrest warrants and nine summonses but only six suspects have been arrested so far and only one has been convicted -- Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga.
by RTT Staff Writer
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