Saturday, March 31, 2007

A gauntlet for the international community

Thanks to Judge Taghrid Hikmet of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for the inspiring comments she delivered at the Women in International Law Interest Group luncheon Friday during the American Society of International Law's annual meeting in Washington.
"In Jordan we have no natural resources," Hikmet said of her home state. "But we believe that the human being is the greatest resource we can have."
In talking about her decades-long "struggle to change the status quo," Hikmet recalled a 1982 interview. Noting that "the number of women lawyers at that time was minuscule," she told the reporter, "'Where the court is a forest full of men there is no space for women.'" To a question about judges, she said that "'if the judicial council was willing to the appointment of a woman, in spite of the objections of some believers of Islam, I will be extremely happy to be the first one.'" Indeed she was, though her appointment as Jordan's 1st judge did not take place for another 15 years. Hikmet said she took great comfort in the congratulations she received at the time from Sharia judges. There were doubters, though, including a university professor who told her that "women being emotional and sentimental were not suitable to be judges. I looked at him," Hikmet continued, "and said, 'It is true that a woman is emotional and sentimental. But this is not something that a woman regrets. It is a gift from God, to distinguish her from other creatures.'"
Eventually Jordan nominated Hikmet to the ICTR; she was the 2d highest votegetter, receiving "40 votes from the Islamic group although I am not covering my head." The 1st Arab, Muslim woman ever to serve as an international criminal tribunal judge, Hikmet stressed that she is just one of many "Arab and Muslim women who are qualified for such positions." Thus did she cast a welcome gauntlet at the international community.

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