"This week's elections have brought this court a giant step closer to reality," said Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice program. "By electing so many judges and lawyers with criminal trial experience, the member states of the ICC have signaled their commitment to an effective and fair court. With this bench, the court is likely to get off to a strong start."
The elected judges include 7 women and 11 men from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, Latin America, North America, and Western Europe.
At the first Assembly of States Parties meeting in September 2002, states agreed to a set of minimum voting requirements to ensure fair gender and regional representation while allowing for the election of the highest quality judges.
The balloting got underway at the United Nations on Tuesday morning. Seven judges were elected in the first round. Subsequent rounds occurred on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The last judges obtained the required two-thirds majority on Friday evening.
"The voting process took 33 rounds and three days," said Dicker. "We are pleased that the best qualified candidates were elected and the least qualified were at the bottom of the list."
Many other international courts have few women judges. The International Court of Justice has had 1 in its many decades of existence. The ad hoc tribunal for Rwanda currently has 3 full-time women judges and the tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has but one. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea currently has no woman judge among its 21-seat bench.
"This week states made history by securing high quality gender representation on the bench. It represents a break with the traditional practice of excluding women from these positions," said Dicker.
The court will sit in The Hague, the Netherlands. The judges will be inaugurated on March 11.
The Assembly of States Parties (ASP)'s next major task is to elect a highly qualified prosecutor. The election is slated for April 2003. The court will have the power to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed after July 1, 2002.
The United States does not support the court. Eighty-eight nations have joined the court including states from each region in the world.
For more information on the International Criminal Court, please visit http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/icc/