Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) based in The Hague, is in Democratic Republic of Congo to begin an investigation into possible crimes against humanity reflected in the nation’s ongoing political and ethnic violence.
She’s meeting with Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, the Minister for Human Rights, and other Congolese government officials ahead of a press conference planned for Thursday.
Bensouda is responding to a delegation of international human rights organizations who met with the ICC in February to press for an investigation into atrocities, particularly in the Kasai provinces.
“The scale and gravity of the crimes committed in the Kasaï province and documented in our report should lead to the opening of a dedicated investigation by the ICC, if no national accountability efforts are deployed,” said the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “The continuing deterioration of the security and human rights situation in several parts of the country further calls for an intensified vigilance from the Court.”
UN officials including human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein also have made repeated calls for inquiry into Congolese violence exacerbated by President Joseph Kabila’s 2016 refusal to step down and the subsequent political crisis. Bensouda’s arrival comes just days after United Nations investigators say they discovered five new mass graves in the Ituri region, which has seen renewed ethnic violence.
The ICC prosecutor said last year that she was following closely reports of atrocities from DR Congo, including the deaths of United Nations experts abducted and killed near Bunkonde.
“I remind all parties concerned that we opened an investigation in the DRC in 2004, and that my Office continues to carefully monitor the situation throughout the Congolese territory, including the current situation in the Kasaï provinces,” she said. “I shall not hesitate to take action if acts constituting crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC are committed and to take all necessary measures to prosecute those responsible in accordance with the principle of complementarity.”