Voice

Meet the world's new chief prosecutor

While it hasn't been made official yet, it is now clear that Fatou Bensouda will be the next prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. She will succeed the ICC's first chief prosecutor, Argentina's Luis Moreno-Ocampo, when his nine-year term expires next year. Bensouda, who hails from the Gambia, has been serving since late 2004 as the court's deputy prosecutor. Before that, she worked as  a trial attorney with the international tribunal for Rwanda and held an array of senior posts in the Gambia.

Bensouda's elevation is not a surprise. She has long been the leading candidate for the top job. Formally, she was competing with three other finalists identified by a search committee, but none of her rivals had much of a shot. In addition to broad African support, she enjoyed strong backing from the French, who have been quite involved in the work of the court. From what I've heard, the selection process was not acrimonious and featured almost none of the national horse-trading that often characterizes the election of international organization officials.

Bensouda's smooth ride to the top derived from a confluence of competence, experience, and geography. She is expert in international criminal law and knows the inner workings of the ICC. She is a known quantity to the states most interested in the ICC's work and shows no signs of unpredictability. At the same time, she is acceptable to the influential human rights groups that assiduously follow the court's work. 

Perhaps most important, she is African and her election may ease one of the court's most significant public relations problems: the oft-heard complaint that it is a fundamentally Western institution that only has eyes for Africa's sins. With all current ICC investigations taking place in Africa, the African Union all but demanded that the next prosecutor be from the continent and officially backed Bensouda's candidacy. The other African finalist, Tanzania's Mohamed Chande Othman, never gained much traction.

Bensouda will likely bring a quite different style to the prosecutor's job than her predecessor. She appears to be significantly less garrulous than Moreno-Ocampo, who occasionally raised diplomats' blood pressure with his public statements. Her lower public profile may suit well the current phase of the court's work. The institution faced severe doubts about its viability when Moreno-Ocampo took the reins in early 2003. Then, the United States was engaged in a global campaign to curtail the court's reach. Eight years later, the court has established itself as a going concern with a subtantial caseload.  Twice it has been handed cases by the UN Security Council, an important recognition of the court's place in the international system. The United States is reconciled to and even supportive of its work.  The task of the ICC now is more consolidating its gains--and finally completing some trials--than fighting for survival, and Bensouda may be well suited to the task.

More: An insightful reader adds another element:

One element that I missed in your discussion above: Bensouda is a woman.
While gender may seem an irrelevant consideration for this job, the fact of the matter is that large-scale sexual violence is increasingly seen as a war crime. The ICC made some important steps in developing a body of legal precedent concerning mass rape as an international crime. Most victims of these crimes are (African) women, so Bensouda's upcoming election as prosecutor will probably also signal increased attention to this topic.

The Multilateralist

Does the White House think the Eurozone can hold?

Officially, of course, the White House believes Europe has the wherewithal to right itself and that the Eurozone can hold. But what do top administration folk really think? They aren't saying, but two former advisers have recently opened up on the subject. Last night, Larry Summers told an audience that "no person of good will" can advocate for Eurozone fragmentation and waxed eloquent about the achievements of a united Europe. Former Council of Economic Advisers chair Austan Goolsbee has a somewhat different take. The Washington Post's Ezra Klein asked him here whether there's a way the Eurozone can survive intact:

No, there probably isn’t. If you look at the history, there have been places where what would seem to be not-optimal currency areas have stayed together. North and South Italy would seem to be one. But those tend to entail large, permanent subsidies from the rich side to the poor side, and a general social willingness to put up with these vast differences, usually because they’re all of the same nation state, and you have that mobility aspect. It’s harder to apply that model to Europe.

Neither man speaks for the administration. But it's a fair bet that they reflect currents of thought in Washington's corridors of power. And that in turn suggests that the White House may be as confused as the rest of us.