Monday, September 19, 2011

How to deepen shallow ICC judges pool

Of the six vacancies, two should be filled by candidates from Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure the court retains a broad geographical representation. But that region has only put forward three candidates, one less than the minimum required to hold a poll.

So wrote Financial Times reporter Caroline Birnham Wednesday in a story whose title says it all: "The Hague struggles to find judges."
The struggle, specifically, is to find qualified women and men to compete in the International Criminal Court judicial election to be held in December. As IntLawGrrl Beth Van Schaack discussed in posts available here, fully a third of the bench will turn over this year. (credit for photo of ICC building)
The ICC extended the judicial nominations deadline by 2 weeks, Birnham wrote in Financial Times; she added, "lack of candidates ... could force another extension."
As our colleague William A. Schabas put it on his blog:

'It's an astonishing situation.'

Too-few numbers aren't the only concern. Outside of the Philippines' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago (1 of only 3 persons nominated on account of human rights expertise, and 1 of only 2 women nominated), few of the 19 names listed are hugely familiar. Bruno Cathala of France is an exception, though his international experience has been in the role of registrar, and not as an international judge. Sierra Leone's Rosolu John Bankole Thompson has served as presiding judge of the Special Court for Sierra Leone -- in that position, he dissented from the Court's conviction of Sierra Leonean ex-government officials.
One looks in vain for a candidate with the background of some who've served on the International Court of Justice. There's no Higgins or Simma or Greenwood. Nor any Patricia Wald, Richard Goldstone, or Cecilia Medina Quiroga, to name the 3 former judges tasked with vetting the current ICC candidates.
The names of many qualified potential candidates jump to mind. It's to be hoped that ICC states parties, which need not nominate their own nationals, have considered them all.
If, as Article 36 of the ICC Statute now requires, nominations must come from states parties, it's up to states parties to step up and recruit qualified candidates.
If states parties don't step up, it may be time to consider amending the statute to permit civil society to play a more direct role in this essential process.

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