He is no stranger to the ICC, having acted as a defense lawyer for Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and persuading judges to throw out prosecution charges against his client. Gaynor acted as a legal representative for victims in the Ruto case, which focused on post-election violence.
The ICC prosecutor holds a position that is one of the toughest in international law due to the court’s mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Donald Trump’s administration slapped sanctions on Bensouda and one of her top aides last year for continuing to investigate war crimes allegations against Americans, although the court was often criticized in the past for its focus on African crimes.
Last week, ICC judges angered Israel by saying the court’s jurisdiction extends to territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, potentially clearing the way for the prosecutor to open an investigation into Israeli military actions and the country’s construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the decision a “perversion of justice.”
The selection process and the alleged failure by the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties to conduct stringent background checks on the candidates has drawn criticism from civil society groups that work with the court.
“Although ICC member countries took a number of innovative steps to guide this election process, they did not put in place steps to professionally vet candidates as part of an assessment of ‘high moral character,’ a key requirement under the ICC treaty for the prosecutor,” Liz Evenson, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said.
A diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of closed meetings said the fact that many of the meetings to discuss possible successors to Bensouda took place virtually made it difficult for member nations to discuss concerns during informal “corridor” meetings.