ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda inspires next generation of criminal lawyers at start of IBA ICC Moot Court

Wednesday 9 June 2021

At the opening ceremony of the 2021 International Bar Association (IBA) International Criminal Court (ICC) Moot Court competition on Sunday 6 June, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda gave an inspirational speech to the more than 270 students and legal experts gathered online from around the world. At the start of the three-week long virtual event, organised by the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden Law School, Ms Bensouda said:

‘I look at you, the new generation, and I see myself. You too can be the next ICC Prosecutor one day, do not let anyone say otherwise. Your talents and energy to do good, for the common good, are indispensable to humanity’s shared quest for a more sustainable, secure, and just world. I am confident that universal values of human rights and calls for ending impunity, for mass atrocities will increasingly define the 21st century, your century’.

Ms Bensouda encouraged the students to: ‘Follow closely the ICC and other institutions working to advance the rule of law and to actively support them, for they are too important to falter’. She added, ‘As young leaders, I invite you all to advance directly or indirectly the ICC’s foundational goals, helping to raise awareness of its functioning, advocating for greater membership, campaigning for more arrests, contributing to the visiting professional programme, seizing other opportunities to get involved with the Court’s ever-expanding work, including joining related civil society initiatives. And of course, you can apply to open vacancies at the Court, and become a trial lawyer, an investigator or a cooperation adviser, or work for victims directly or contribute to the work of the defence and contribute to the wheels of international criminal justice.’ Ms Bensouda concluded by telling the students to: ‘Be brave, be courageous, and above all be principled to always be guided by decency and professional integrity’. .

Ms Bensouda’s full remarks can be downloaded from the IBA website, and the video of the Opening Ceremony can be watched here.

Following her address, Ms Bensouda answered a range of questions from the students, which covered her election as ICC Deputy Prosecutor; reflections on her nine-year term as ICC Chief Prosecutor; the many memorable cases she handled during her 17 years at the ICC; and her legacy.

Among the responses, Ms Bensouda emphasised her work to ensure accountability for crimes affecting women and children, a focus for the Office of the Prosecutor during her term. When asked about the sanctions imposed on her and her senior staff by the United States under former President Donald Trump because of the ICC’s decision to launch investigations into alleged war crimes by the US in Afghanistan, and into US ally Israel in the Palestinian territories, Ms Bensouda quoted Nuremberg Prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz, saying: ‘it takes courage, not to be discouraged’. She remarked that never giving up was the most significant lesson she has learnt from nine years in office.

All participants to the competition were welcomed by IBA President Sternford Moyo, IBA Executive Director Dr Mark Ellis, the Chair of the IBA ICC Moot Court Competition Organising Committee Professor Dr Carsten Stahn and the Chair of the IBA ICC Moot Court Competition Board of Advisors Professor Michael P Scharf.

Mr Moyo, Chairman and Senior Partner at Scanlen and Holderness in Zimbabwe commented: ‘As the IBA develops its partnership with The Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden Law School, I am delighted to be participating today in this ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the 2021 IBA ICC Moot Court Competition, hosting the top legal minds of the future. The Grotius Centre and the Organising Committee have done a fantastic job in creating a full and vibrant schedule of Moot Court hearings and activities, and we are excited to see the work begin’.

Professor Dr Stahn said: ‘This year is special because it is the first ever online edition of the competition. The Moot Court overall is you, and you are the future of international criminal justice. The spirit of the competition is to learn from each other, to build bridges and to become part of the international community. Competing is important, winning is important too, but [what is] most important is to gain and share experiences and to embrace the team spirit and what you learn from colleagues and peers’.

Commenting on Ms Bensouda’s illustrious term as only the second ICC Chief Prosecutor since the establishment of the ICC, and referencing the US-Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine investigations and associated sanctions, Dr Ellis stated: ‘She has shown resolve, courage and integrity in pursuing accountability in the face of many obstacles. Fatou, you and your office stood firm on these investigations, despite great personal and professional costs, and in doing so are an example of the highest integrity in the legal profession. It has been a great honour for the IBA to work with you over the years, and we are delighted that the IBA ICC Moot Court participants have had the opportunity to hear you speak today’.

Dr Ellis also shared some words of praise for the students, saying: ‘Every year I look forward to engaging with law students who are eager to improve their knowledge of international criminal law in general and of the ICC and its proceedings in particular. It is encouraging to see so many countries and legal systems represented in you, the students. The IBA is delighted to support this important competition, and to be here with you today to welcome all participants, including the judges volunteering their time and expertise so that the next generation of law practitioners can gain invaluable practical experience and understanding of international criminal law and the ICC’.

Over the course of the next three weeks, prior to the final round in the ICC courtroom on 25 June and the closing ceremony on 27 June, the competition programme will include 497 online pleadings and varied academic and networking events including a high-level panel on ‘Accountability for Sexual and Gender-Based Crimes: Progress and Challenges’ (9 June); Dr Ellis interviewing former ICC Judge Howard Morrison QC (16 June); ‘Practicing Law/Teaching in the New Normal’ (17 June) and ‘Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights’ (22 June) – this event is open to the public on Zoom with the Meeting ID: 657 2644 0225 / Passcode: i1QSC4t.


Notes to the Editor

  1. The opening ceremony can be viewed here.
  2. The Judge Morrison QC interview, the final round of the Moot Court and the awards ceremony will be recorded and posted on the ICC website and/or streamed live.
  3. At the beginning of 2021, the IBA and Grotius Centre of Leiden University signed a new memorandum of understanding, which positioned the IBA as the primary supporting partner of the event and renamed it the IBA ICC Moot Court Competition. During the opening ceremony, the competition’s new logo was showcased in a video created by the IBA.
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

  5. The IBA commenced the International Criminal Court and International Criminal Law (ICC & ICL) Programme in 2005. The Programme monitors issues related to fairness and equality of arms at the ICC and other Hague-based war crimes tribunals and encourages the legal community to engage with the work of these courts. The IBA’s work includes thematic legal analysis of proceedings, and ad hoc evaluations of legal, administrative, and institutional issues which could potentially affect the rights of defendants, the impartiality of proceedings and the development of international justice.

    The Programme also acts as the interface between the Courts and the global legal community. As such, special focus is placed on monitoring emerging issues of particular relevance to lawyers and collaborating with key partners on specific activities to increase engagement of the legal community on ICC and ICL issues.

    Based in The Hague, the IBA ICC & ICL Programme consults and interacts with court officials, civil society organisations, academics, and international lawyers.

For further information, please contact:

Kate Orlovsky
Director, Hague Office
International Bar Association

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2514 JT The Hague
The Netherlands

Mobile: +31 (0) 70 737 0686
Email: kate.orlovsky@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
Press Office
International Bar Association

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United Kingdom

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