The election last month of three female judges to the ICC presidency has been welcomed as a milestone for the Court—and for gender equality in international institutions. Many challenges now lie ahead.
Civil society welcomes new presidency
New ICC President Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi along with with vice presidents Joyce Aluoch and Kuniko Ozaki—from Argentina, Kenya and Japan respectively—will be responsible for smooth running of the judicial, administrative and external relations functions of the Court for the next three years.
President de Gurmendi:
“It is a great honor to have been elected President of the ICC. I will do my utmost to live up to the trust that my fellow judges have placed in me. I look forward to working together with the two vice presidents, Judge Joyce Aluoch and Judge Kuniko Ozaki, and indeed all the judges and other organs of the Court, as well the Assembly of States Parties, civil society and the international community at large, in fulfilling the ICC’s important mandate for the sake of justice, peace and the rule of law.”
Civil society is urging the new presidency to build on the work of former ICC president Sang-Hyun Song—along with his vice presidents—in encouraging states to join the ICC and strengthen their cooperation with the Court, building the ICC’s global profile and mainstreaming accountability for grave crimes in regional and international institutions.
William R. Pace, convenor of the Coalition for the ICC:
“The Coalition warmly welcomes the election of Judge Fernandez de Gurmendi as the new ICC president and thanks her predecessor Judge Song for his tireless service to international justice. For the first time the ICC has three female judges at the helm, something which can only deepen the Court’s commitment to gender equality and justice. Judge Fernandez de Gurmendi has the experience needed to steer the ICC through the judicial, political and administrative challenges it faces over the coming years. Working towards full universality of the Rome Statute, garnering greater political support and shortening the length of proceedings are among the tasks requiring immediate attention.”
President de Gurmendi spoke this week at the Danish Mission in New York about improving the performance of the Court.
While in New York, she met with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and other UN officials to discuss the role of the ICC in “building lasting peace, empowering women and fighting gender-based crimes and crimes against children.”
The first female ICC president
President de Gurmendi is long familiar with the ICC system. Even before the ICC was established, she took part in the negotiations for Rome Statute on behalf of her native Argentina. She was also the director general for human rights at the Argentinean ministry of foreign affairs and represented Argentina before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Since joining the ICC in 2010 as a judge, she has dealt with a wide range of cases.
Kelly Askin, Open Society Justice Initiative:
“[President de Gurmendi’s election] marks a significant step forward for the proper representation of women in the top ranks of international justice. Strong judicial leadership is indispensable to building a sustainable, credible court. Women in top positions in other international courts have often proved to be the most effective advocates and managers.”
The vice presidents
First Vice President Aluoch has been an ICC judge since 2009. Before assuming her functions with the ICC she gained significant experience in children’s rights. She chaired a task-force that worked toward the implementation of the new Sexual Offences Act (2006), aimed at developing a national policy framework and a national action plan for handling sexual offenses in Kenya. Judge Aluoch was a judge of the high court of Kenya for over 20 years as well as the vice chairperson of a judicial review committee.
Second Vice President Ozaki has been an ICC judge since 2010. She has previously served as in several capacities in the Japanese government, including in humanitarian and criminal affairs. As director for treaty affairs for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Judge Ozaki was responsible for implementing international treaties; developing domestic legislation on organized crime, corruption and terrorism; training judges and prosecutors; and establishing the rule of law and national criminal justice systems in post-conflict regions.
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