Issue 117 - December 3 - International Criminal Court Elects Two New Judges

New York, December 3, 2009 - Two new judges for the International Criminal Court, Ms. Kuniko Ozaki (Japan) and Ms. Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi (Argentina), were elected on November 18, during the eighth annual Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, is a permanent, international judicial body that can try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. Judges on the ICC (there are 18 in total) handle pre-trial matters (confirming indictments and issuing arrest warrants), preside over the trials, and handle appeals to trials and pre-trial decisions.

Ozaki and Fernández de Gurmendi were chosen during the special elections to fill unscheduled judicial vacancies resulting from the departure of Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen (Guyana) on February 16, 2009, and the passing away of Judge Fumiko Saiga (Japan) on April 24, 2009.

Judges Shahabuddeen and Saiga had been elected to nine-year terms in January 2009. Ozaki and Fernández de Gurmendi - from the same geographical regions as their predecessors, respectively - will serve out the remainder of those terms.

Ozaki, the only candidate for the seat from the Asian region, was elected in the first round. Fernández de Gurmendi, one of four candidates from the Latin American and Caribbean region, was elected in the sixth round following the withdrawal of the other candidates.

Detailed information on the elected judges is available here.

ICC Election Procedure

To be eligible for election to the Court, a judicial candidate must be a national of a state party to the Rome Statute, and no country may have more than one judge on the court. 

According the Rome Statute, judges on the ICC must be, "persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity who possess the qualifications required in their respective States for appointment to the highest judicial offices."

In evaluating and voting for judicial candidates, States Parties are required to consider, also:

  • Competence in criminal law and procedure (list A candidates) or in relevant areas of international law (list B candidates);
  • Representation of principal legal systems of the world;
  • Fair representation of female and male judges;
  • Legal expertise in specific issues including, but not limited to, violence against women and children; and
  • Equitable geographical representation.

The Assembly of States Parties (ASP) elects the candidates who obtain the highest number of votes and a two-thirds majority of States Parties present and voting. 

(For more information on the ICC's election and nomination procedures see UNelections Monitor Issue 90 and the Coalition for the ICC.)

Candidates

Latin American and Caribbean States nominated three candidates to replace Judge Shahabuddeen - Fernández de Gurmendi, who was a "List A" candidate, or one with qualifications in criminal law and procedure; and Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra from Colombia, Duke Pollard from Guyana, and Cecilia Medina Quiroga from Chile. The latter three candidates were all "List B" candidates, or those with qualifications in international law.

Asian States nominated one candidate to replace Judge Saiga - Kuniko Ozaki, also of Japan. Ozaki was a "List B" candidate.

Role of Civil Society in Elections

The process of nominating, evaluating, and electing judges is closely monitored by civil society actors, including the Coalition for the ICC, which encourages States Parties to nominate and elect highly qualified candidates (following CICC's recommended criteria) through a transparent process.

The Coalition (CICC) invited the candidates to complete a questionnaire on their qualifications. Questions included:

  • What difficulties do you envision encountering working with judges from other legal systems? How would you resolve such difficulties?
  • Did you help advocate for the adoption of human rights or international humanitarian law treaties or other instruments?
  • Are there situations or cases in the past where you believe you have applied a gender perspective, i.e. inquired into the ways in which men and women were differently impacted? Are there situations where you did not analyze the different impacts of a situation on women and men but on reflection now think such an analysis would have been appropriate?
  • Have you served on the staff or board of directors of human rights or international humanitarian law organizations?
  • Have you ever resigned from a position as a member of the bar of any country or been disciplined or censured by any bar association of which you may have been a member?
  • Do you expect difficulties in your taking an independent position? Would you be able to judge impartially whether an investigation by your government was genuine?

All five candidates - Monroy Cabra, Medina Quiroga, Fernández de Gurmendi, Duke Pollard, and Kuniko Ozaki - provided answers to the questionnaire prior to the elections.

On October 26, the candidates also participated in a panel discussion hosted by CICC, in which Member States and civil society heard candidates' views about international law and the role of the Court. 

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