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International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor urges UEL graduates to fight for justice

Fatou Bensouda receives honorary doctorate in recognition of her distinguished legal career

Fatou Bensouda, Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), told an audience of graduating University of East London (UEL) students that the poignant memories of mass atrocity victims seeking justice had sparked in her a lifelong passion for the law.

Fatou, who was presented with an honorary Doctorate of the Laws at a ceremony at London’s indigo at The 02, said, “Today I’m reminded of my time working as a clerk in the high court of The Gambia. It was one of those moments that leaves a mark, like your graduation today.

“I witnessed victims of rape and sexual violence, and their agony remains vivid in my memory. I knew from that moment that, through the law, vulnerable groups must be protected.” 

Her track record in human rights makes her a luminous example for the newest law graduates from UEL’s Royal Docks School of Business and Law.

“This is a truly prestigious honour, and I’m truly humbled,” she told a packed auditorium of graduates and their families. “I’m happy to accept this. It’s a privilege to be associated with UEL, and it’s a special recognition of the contributions made by the ICC for a more just and peaceful world.”

Originally from The Gambia, she gained a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ife (now called Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria, followed by her Barrister-at-Law qualification from the Nigeria Law School.

She held senior legal governmental roles in The Gambia before moving to work at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, dealing with the aftermath of the genocide. She moved to the ICC in 2004 and was elected as Chief Prosecutor in 2011.

She took the opportunity to renew her commitment to bringing justice to the victims of mass atrocities “with sheer determination, complete independence, and without fear or favour.”

For Fatou, giving victims justice is truly global, with examinations and investigations conducted in Afghanistan, Palestine,  Iraq, Ukraine, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Darfur/Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Central African Republic, Mali, and Georgia.

She praised UEL as one of the most diverse in the country, citing more than 120 countries represented among the staff and students. 

“Working at the ICC requires not only an excellent knowledge of international human rights law but the ability to work in multi-cultural and multilingual environments,” she said.

“I invite those of you who are interested to consider the ICC, and particularly my office, as a possible future prospect for yourselves.

“With the progress we have made in the universal values of human rights, humanity no longer remains silent in the face of tribalism and sectarianism, and each of us must carry the torch for human dignity and equality and justice for victims of mass atrocities.”