Fatou Bensouda was born in The Gambia, where she received her early education before studying at the University of lfe in Nigeria. She graduated with an LL.B. and then qualified as a barrister before successfully completing a Master’s degree in International Maritime Law and Law of the Sea. She thus became the first international maritime law expert in The Gambia.
Mrs. Bensouda has held many positions in public life in The Gambia, including Solicitor General, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, which involved acting as Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet of the Republic of The Gambia. She has served as a delegate to United Nations conferences on crime prevention, to the Organization of African Unity’s Ministerial Meetings on Human Rights, and as the delegate of The Gambia to the meetings of the preparatory commission for the International Criminal Court.
It is her work in the field of international criminal law and human rights which has brought Fatou Bensouda global recognition. In 2004 she was elected Deputy Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, and in June 2012 she became the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Prior to her work at the International Criminal Court, Mrs Bensouda worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of the Legal Advisory Unit.
At Keele, we have a strong interest in Human Rights, and in this year when our Law School is celebrating its 501 anniversary, it is fitting that we are honouring such a distinguished lawyer, whose professional life reminds us that judicial processes and the rule of law have such an important role to play in ensuring that justice is seen to be done when domestic courts and tribunals have failed to deal with the individuals accused of the most serious crimes we know – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
As the first African woman to assume the role of Prosecutor at an international tribunal, Fatou Bensouda faces daunting challenges in assisting the development of the role of the International Criminal Court when there are still too many Governments who are reluctant to participate in its work. The importance of her contribution to international peace by advancing the rule of law has been acknowledged by the many awards which she has received. These are numerous, including the distinguished ICJ International Jurists Award (2009), presented by the then President of India P. D. Patil; the 2011 World Peace Through Law Award presented by the Whitney Harris World Law Institute at Washington University; the American Society of International Law’s Honorary Membership Award (2014), and the 35th Peace Prize presented by the United Nations Association of Spain (2015). In addition to holding several honorary doctorates, Mrs. Bensouda has been listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world (2012); by the New African magazine as one of the “Most Influential Africans;” by Foreign Policy as one of the “Leading Global Thinkers” (2013), and by Jeune Afrique as one of 50 African women who, by their actions and initiatives in their respective roles, advance the African continent (2014 & 2015).
PROFESSOR FIONA COWNIE
PRO VICE-CHANCELLOR (EDUCATION AND STUDENT EXPERIENCE) 14TH JULY 2015