By Matthew Russell Lee for InnerCityPro.com
UNITED NATIONS, May 12 – After International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda briefed the UN Security Council about Libya on May 12, she emerged from the Chamber and agreed to answer some questions; Inner City Press asked some, starting with the Central African Republic. Because it was not at the UN Television stakeout, Inner City Press has transcribed it here, including on Palestine / Israel and Libya:
Inner City Press: On CAR, where is your inquiry, and will you look at the allegations of abuse by peacekeepers if you move forward?
Bensouda (A) – We’re moving forward. I’m sure you’ve heard that I have announced the opening of investigations into CAR. Two parallel investigations are ongoing right now, and my investigators are already in the field. I have decided to open on both sides the Balaka, anti-Balaka and the Seleka. And the investigations are moving in parallel. At the moment my investigators are collecting information. I just want to remind you that we are focusing on ICC crimes of course, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, that have been committed within the context of the conflict that is ongoing. And this is happening. I in fact am trying to have larger presence of investigators in the field…
Q: This is actual investigation?
A: No, this is not a preliminary investigation. This is an investigation. And that is why I said in this particular case we are looking for the ICC crimes, and persons who bear responsibility for those crimes…
Q: What kind of collaboration are you getting?
A: It’s good. In CAR, we’re getting good cooperation, and the government has been very helpful. They’re still continue to be helpful. We’re also in contact with other actors in the field, to collect information, and we’re receiving information. At the moment, we’re collecting. You can receive a lot of information but of course it has to be relevant to the crimes we’re investigating. So, it’s not just to pick up the information, and have a lot of information, but to make an assessment that this information is relevant.
Inner City Press: Does the UN provide information, in CAR?
A: When we deploy to the field, any field, we try to work with our partners on the ground. Sometimes for reasons of confidentiality, given the different mandates that we have, the UN and us, this is not information that we readily want to announce to everyone, that this is happening. But we try as much as we can to work with our partners in the field. Because sometimes these cases…
About Palestine, as you already know, I have announced the opening of a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. This was following the declaration that has been made this year, on the 2nd I believe, by Palestine on the article 12-3 of the Rome Statute accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC.
Following that, after careful assessment by my office, I decided that all the criteria I need, according with my policy of the office and the Rome Statute, all the criteria has been met for me to open a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine. You will recall this is not an investigation. This is a preliminary examination. It does not have a time line. It depends on the circumstances of the, the facts and the circumstances will determine whether I move fast or it will take time.
I also want to say that at this moment contrary to what — said, that someone is brought before the ICC, this is not the case in a preliminary examination. I need to clarify that, In a preliminary examination, I need to make a determination checking whether ICC crimes have been committed in this situation. Also, whether there are any national proceedings, addressing those crimes, Also, whether the gravity of those crimes, we have to assess the gravity, and also to assess the interest of justice. Will it be against the interest of justice if ICC were to intervene. So these are the 4 things I’m looking for right now. It’s a process. At the end of it, a determination will be made, whether to start an open investigation, or not open an investigation, or still go on collecting, because maybe I do not have enough yet.
Q: You want to hear both sides?
A: I have been very clear that I’m looking at both sides to the conflict. I’m encouraging both sides to provide my office with information. I believe it’s in the best interest of both sides to provide me with the information I need. I have said from the very beginning, and I continue to say, that I’m going to conduct this preliminary examination in the most impartial manner, and independent manner.
Q: What about the illegal settlements, is that part of your territory?
A: It could potentially be part of what we are looking at. But now, proceeding will be declaration, that was made, you will recall that it covers the events in Gaza last summer, August of 2014, going forward, June of 2014 going forward.
Q: How do you feel about the new report on Gaza?
A: As I was trying to explain, what I’m doing now, I’m not investigating any particular incident. I’m collecting information.
Q: You’re not going to act on that specific report?
A: It is premature for me to say on what incident I will act. This is what I’m trying to explain. What I’m doing now is collecting information to make sure that ICC crimes have been committed. It’s not yet an investigation. But information that will assist my office to make this determination is always welcome…. It has no timeline. This is very quiet process. Receiving information from all reliable sources, it can be two sides, it can be outsides of the two sides, who have any information to share with my office, this will be taken into account in our analysis. That’s what we will do.
Q: Have you received any information from different parties?
A I am receiving information. I am receiving information not yet from different parties, but we will see. I encourage all parties to provide my office with information that is important in this process, and I think it’s in the best interest of all sides to provide my office with information.
Q: What is being done with regard to Libya?
A: I don’t think Libya said they wouldn’t comply. I think they said they would comply within the limits of their national sovereignty. But what is happening right now is that we are having good cooperation with the prosecutor’s office about, not only Saif al Islam. Last time I reported to the Council I talked about the memorandum of understanding and the burden sharing between my office and the Libyan authorities.
It has gone all the way to the appeals chamber and they have confirmed that the case of Saif al Islam is still admissible before the ICC. They are urging the Libyan government to transfer Saif al Islam Gaddafi to the court. As you know, just in April, I think 8th of April the ICC judges have decided to send to the Council a non compliance of Libya on the Saif case.
Q: Has that gone to ..
A: It’s gone to the Council.
Q: But they didn’t speak to it.
A: Not yet. But it is with them.
Q: If the country is deemed non compliant, what will they do?
A: I know that the Council, what I urged them to do is call on Libya to respect their obligations with respect to cooperation with ICC. Even today I repeated it.
Q: Why are you hanging onto this case?
A: I think it’s unfortunate for you to say, given the fact that 1970 was very clear in the mandate given to the prosecutor of the ICC to investigate and prosecute this crime. The case of Saif al Islam Gaddafi, and of Senussi, and of Gaddafi deceased was brought to the court based on the evidence that we collected and brought to the judge for warrants to issue against them. It’s a judicial process which must take its course. It was also a judicial process and I’m sure you will not doubt the profile of the cases I brought. I’ts not a question of high profile, but we’re following a case. Because Saif al Islam Gaddafi was not a president.
.. But we also have a judicial process. We’re not just interfering in Libya without jurisdiction. We were given jurisdiction to start this case based on a resolution by this Council. (cross talk) We are doing what we can. You will see that a lot of circumstances around this case are not under our control. But what we can control we are doing.
Then Bensouda was summoned away. Surreally, down the hall a Chinese diplomat Fu Cong, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva for Disarmement Affairs Fu Cong was speaking in front of the (closed) NPT meeting. Again, Inner City Press’ transcript:
“We do not want to debate in a public way with the Japanese delegation, because this [NPT] is not the forum. There was an appropriate forum to discuss all the indicia but this is not the one… Our position is that because again, we do not want to see this cause linked with the particular historical event, which actually again, we sympathize with the survivors, but they need to blame the people who started the war in the first place. So this is not as simple as the first use of nuclear weapons. Why nuclear weapons were used on Japanese territory? There was a reason to this. The reason being the Japanese government at the time started the war. And commited atrocities. And the nuclear weapons were used to stop the war so the civilians of other countries can be saved.”
Earlier, inside the Security Council, Bensouda put the onus on member states to go after their own nationals who join ISIS there or elsewhere. But there were questions.