Gambian-born ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda must warn President Yahya Jammeh and his henchmen that those who incite or engage in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner to the commission of crimes within ICC’s jurisdiction is liable to prosecution either by Gambian Courts or by ICC.
If Bensouda continues to be quite when tensions in the Gambia are increasing and a humanitarian crisis already ignited, there will be doubts about her resolve to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of crimes against humanity anywhere in the world.
There are credible reports of President Yahya Jammeh recruiting former fighters of Liberia’s Charles Taylors regime and a war in Gambia will surpass the so-called proportional threshold for Jammeh to be tried in The Hague.
The UN including its rights commission, AU, and ECOWAS all warned of serious consequences for Jammeh for any deaths and human rights violations.
There is no indication, whatsoever, that the ICC is monitoring events in The Gambia, but it should not hesitate to pounce if crimes are committed.
The Gambia under President Yahya Jammeh is one of the three African nations withdrawing from the Rome Statute. President-elect Adama Barrow, who defeated President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to reverse controversial decisions like the country’s withdrawal from the ICC.
ICC under Bensouda’s leadership should learn important lessons from that and seek to do things differently starting from sending President Yahya Jammeh and his forces a clear signal that crimes would not go unpunished.
Fatou Bensouda knows President Yahya Jammeh well. She is not only Gambian but had served as her Attorney General and Justice Minister and Jammeh had jailed her family members. It is not personal, yet still, for her to make her position clear.
She can use this to change her bad Kenya experience to a good record on the books and sending a clear message to dictators and other African leaders who refuse to step down when they lose elections.
Bensouda has issued warnings against the backdrop of heightened political tensions in many countries. The Gambia should not be an exception. The situation in her native country if unchecked could be the precursor of another episode of election-related violence.
ECOWAS has put standby troops on alert ready to be deployed to the Gambia. A Nigerian warship is in route to Banjul and Jammeh has declared a state of emergency.
The declaration is the latest in a series of attempts by Yahya Jammeh to hang onto power beyond his 22-year rule. Thousands of Gambians are fleeing the country or sending their children to neighboring Senegal and Guinea-Bissau and tens of people and soldiers detained.
Fatou Bensouda can longer be silent. There will be no justification for it.