Six judges join the International Criminal Court’s bench as the Court begins a new chapter

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(Paris, The Hague, New York) Yesterday, the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the International Criminal Court (ICC) Statute concluded the election of six new judges to the bench of the ICC over the course of 2021 for a non-renewable term of nine years. FIDH welcomes the election of mostly highly qualified candidates and looks forward to their contribution to ensuring justice for all victims and survivors of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide over the course of their term in office.

Gathered in New York for the 19th annual ASP, States Parties elected over five days six new ICC judges, who will join the Court’s 18-judge bench.
• Joanna KORNER (United Kingdom) – 1st round
• Gocha LORDKIPANIDZE (Georgia) – 2nd round
• Maria Miatta SAMBA (Sierra Leone) – 3rd round
• Maria del Socorro FLORES LIERA (México) – 4th round
• Sergio Gerardo UGALDE GODINEZ (Costa Rica) – 4th round
• Althea Violet ALEXIS-WINDSOR (Trinidad and Tobago) – 8th round

FIDH is pleased to note that, in casting their votes, States Parties to the ICC Statute have considered the need to elect the most qualified candidates – five out of the six elected judges were classified as “highly qualified” by the Advisory Committee assessing the candidates -, while also paying attention to the minimal voting requirements in terms of regional representation, gender, and the balance between judges with experience in criminal law and procedure as practising judge, prosecutor or advocate (List A) and judges who have knowledge of other areas international law, such as international human rights law (List B) on the bench. We welcome that States did go beyond the bare minimum required by the rules to seek greater female representation. The election of four female candidates brings the total number of female judges to nine out of a total of 18 judges, correcting the severe gender imbalance on the ICC bench. As explained in a letter by the Coalition for the ICC (CICC) Elections Team, endorsed by FIDH, “parity is not only a matter of principle, but it also ensures that ICC proceedings can benefit from the diverse perspectives that men and women respectively can bring to the administration of justice”. 

“Electing strong officials to the Court – including a competent and independent bench – is essential, as efficient and effective administration of the Court and clear and proactive outreach will help strengthen the legitimacy of the ICC.”

Shawan Jabarin, FIDH secretary general and director of Al-Haq

The new judges, elected from among 18 candidates, will serve a nine-year term (from 2021 to 2030), and will join the ICC bench at a crucial time as the Court continues to face external hostility, as recently shown by the sanctions adopted by the US government against designated ICC staff. Their election also comes at a time when the Court and its performance have been put under close scrutiny by a Group of Independent Experts who issued a compelling report on both court-wide and organ-specific matters such as governance, ethics, elections, working methods, and efficiency of the judicial process, containing extensive recommendations to be assessed and implemented by all organs of the Court and States Parties. This year also marks an important change among the ranks of the Court’s officials as the mandates of current ICC President Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji and ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda are coming to an end. Along with the new officials, the six new judges will play a crucial role in strengthening the Court in the face of both internal and external challenges.

FIDH encourages the six new judges to support additional training initiatives, in particular on victims’ rights under the Rome Statute system. Training is an opportunity to enrich the expertise of the bench; the judges, while already highly qualified, can benefit from opportunities to learn more about their duty of care towards victims, the unique role of victim participation in the ICC system, and share their backgrounds and experiences with their colleagues. It is particularly important for all judges – both with and without previous experience with victims – to be trained on interacting with vulnerable victims and affected communities.

“Victim participation is an integral part of the Rome Statute system and it is up to the judges to render it as meaningful as possible. Victims’ rights have been applied very differently depending on the Chamber and case, with a tendency to adopt an increasingly narrow interpretation of victims’ participatory rights. ICC judges should harmonise modalities of victim participation in a way that ensures victims’ rights are fully implemented.”

Delphine Carlens, head of FIDH’s international justice desk


The first step of the election process was nomination of judicial candidates. Following the conclusion of the nomination period on 14 May 2020, the Advisory Committee on Nominations of Judges (ACN) assessed the qualifications of the candidates, checked their references, and reviewed the national nomination process along the lines of its mandate. The ACN published its report classifying 10 candidates as highly qualified – including seven of the nine female candidates –, three candidates as qualified, seven as only formally qualified, and none as not qualified.

During the remainder of the process, States Parties were informed by this objective report, by candidates’ responses to a civil society questionnaire, and by the judicial roundtables organised online from 3 to 6 November 2020.

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