Monday 27 Jun 2022 | 12:00 | SYDNEY
Monday 27 Jun 2022 | 12:00 | SYDNEY

Judging the ICC judges


Fergus Hanson


23 January 2008 14:12

The recent election of three new judges to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague revealed the unfortunate power of politics over principle in international organisations. Japan, which recently became the ICC’s largest member state, took the opportunity of three judicial vacancies to nominate one of its own, Ms Fumiko Saiga. As the largest financial contributor to the Court, such a move was more than justified and was welcome news to states keen to see its universality further entrenched. What was unfortunate was her background: she has no judicial experience. 

Australia, along with a host of upstanding international citizens, takes a respectably principled stand on the election of diplomats to judicial vacancies. As with our own judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Kevin Parker, we tend to insist candidates have solid legal qualifications before we will give them our vote.

What possessed Japan to nominate such a poor candidate is a mystery of its own internal machine? Its candidate’s lack of any relevant experience didn’t stop countries supporting her though: she received the highest number of votes, winning election in the first round . It would be interesting to know whether Australia joined in this scramble of support or stuck by its lofty principles. We don’t seem to mind antagonising the government that is home to our largest export market over whales. I suspect over the less emotive issue of international criminal justice we are not quite so principled.