Fatou Bensouda: I helped Louis Moreno Ocampo but in the office’s interest

Former ICC Chief Prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo and his successor Fatou Bensouda at a past court session. (Photo: Courtesy)

International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has admitted to writing a newspaper opinion column on Kenyan cases for her predecessor Louis Moreno Ocampo long after he left the court.

In a rare admission since the implosion of leaks on her office three weeks ago, Bensouda confessed to the Saturday Standard that she penned an April 5, 2014 op-ed on behalf of Ocampo but in the best interest of her office.

The op-ed meant to clarify statements attributed to Ocampo in an earlier interview in which he appeared to own up to diplomatic pressure to stop Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto from running in the 2013 elections.

Documents obtained by a French media agency -- Mediapart -- and analysed by the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC) showed the two prosecutors exchanging content on the op-ed which was later published in a Kenyan newspaper with an Ocampo by-line.

Over the weekend, the Standard published the details of their communication on the draft op-ed after accessing them through the Africa Network for Centres of Investigative Reporting.

“In this instance, Mr Moreno Ocampo reached out to the Prosecutor to offer his assistance to correct the public record following allegations published and disseminated by the media, particularly in Kenya, triggered by the interview he gave in January 2014,” Bensouda’s office told Saturday Standard through a spokesman.

Bensouda said she considered the misconception arising from Ocampo’s interview to have had detrimental impact on the Kenyan cases’ proceedings and also on safety of witnesses under her care.

She said when Ocampo’s offer to assist in clarifying his own interview came, she embraced it “for the sole purpose of correcting the public record.”

“In doing so, Prosecutor Bensouda acted with utmost diligence and strictly with the interests of the Office, the integrity of the judicial proceedings and the persons to whom her Office had a duty of care under the Rome Statute legal framework in mind,” reads the statement from her office.

It said the prosecutor and her office are, at all times, strictly guided by the requirements of the Rome Statute, and the evidence collected through its independent investigations.

“All decisions by the Prosecutor and her Office are taken independently and impartially. This has been true for the Kenyan cases before the Court and all cases treated by the Office,” said the statement.

In the email leaks, Bensouda attaches the draft op-ed prepared by her office for Ocampo’s consideration and asks him: “Let me know if the text works for you and how you want to proceed.”

Later, the op-ed appears in Kenyan media outlets word for word what Bensouda had proposed.