UN  Rights Council appoints Former ICC Prosecutor Bensouda, others to Probe Ethiopian Crises 

Fatou Bensuoda

The President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Federico Villegas (Argentina), today announced the appointment of Fatou Bensouda of Gambia, Kaari Betty Murungi of Kenya and Steven Ratner of the United States of America to serve as the three members of the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia. Ms. Bensouda will serve as Chair of the three-person Commission.

Through resolution S-33/1 of 17 December 2021, adopted at its special session, the Human Rights Council decided to establish an international commission of human rights, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to conduct an impartial investigation into allegations of violations and abuses of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law in Ethiopia committed since 3 November 2020 by all parties to the conflict.

The three-person Commission was also asked to “establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses, collect and preserve evidence, to identify those responsible, where possible, and to make such information accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts”.

With the same resolution, the 47-member body mandated the Commission to build upon the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and to make recommendations on technical assistance to the Government of Ethiopia in support of accountability, reconciliation and healing.

The Commissioners, who will serve in their personal capacities, were also requested to present an oral briefing to the Human Rights Council at its 50th session in June/July 2022 and a written report at its 51st session in September/October this year.

Biographies of the members of the Commission of Human Rights

Fatou Bensouda (Gambia) served as Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from June 2012 to June 2021. Ms. Bensouda previously held the position of ICC Deputy Prosecutor (Prosecutions) from 2004 to 2012, having been elected by the Assembly of States Parties. Prior to her work at the ICC, Ms. Bensouda worked as Legal Adviser and Trial Attorney at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, rising to the position of Senior Legal Advisor and Head of the Legal Advisory Unit. Between 1987 and 2000, she served in successively senior positions in Gambia, including Attorney General and Minister of Justice, in which capacity she served as Chief Legal Advisor to the President and Cabinet of Gambia. 

Kaari Betty Murungi (Kenya) has broad experience in transitional justice processes, women’s human rights, gender, constitutionalism and governance. Currently a lawyer and advocate of the High Court of Kenya, she has focussed much of her work to promote women’s human rights in the context of violent conflict. Ms. Murungi served as Vice Chairperson and Commissioner to the Kenya Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (2009-2010); as the Africa representative on the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims at the International Criminal Court (2009-2013); as a Senior Transitional Justice Advisor to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission in South Sudan; and as a member of the Human Rights Council-created Independent Commission of Inquiry for the occupied Palestinian territory. 

Steven Ratner (United States of America) is currently serving as the Bruno Simma Collegiate Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School. Professor Ratner’s teaching and research focus on public international law, international humanitarian law, counter-terrorism strategies, accountability for human rights violations, and corporate and state duties regarding foreign investment. He served as a member of both the UN Secretary-General’s Group of Experts for Cambodia and the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. From 2008 to 2009, he served on the legal division of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. Since 2009, he has served on the United States’ State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Law, and as an expert on international investment in various arbitrations.


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