The Government of the Republic of South Africa has nominated Judge Navanethem Pillay, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), for election as a judge of permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, Netherlands. The South African Government announced its decision to nominate Judge Pillay on Saturday November 30, 2002.
Judge Pillay, a South African national, was elected as President of the ICTR in May 1999 and re-elected to a second term of office in 2001. She has served as a judge of the ICTR since May 1995, following her election to that position by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
The ICTR judge brings to her candidacy for the ICC bench a wealth of relevant experience in the field of international criminal justice. She has participated in the adjudication of a number of historic cases before the ICTR that have established precedents for various international jurisdictions including the ICC. These cases include the Kambanda case, in which the former Prime Minister was convicted, on a plea of guilty, of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. This was the first conviction of a head of government by an international court. Another landmark case in which Judge Pillay participated was the Akayesu case. This was the first ever judgment for the crime of genocide by an international court. This case set a precedent in its conviction of Akayesu, a Rwandan Mayor, for rape as a crime against humanity and an act of genocide, having found that rape was perpetrated against Tutsi women with intention of destroying their ethnic group. Judge Pillay is currently presiding over the so-called “Media Trial” of three senior Rwandan media executives for their alleged roles in the genocide.
Judge Pillay was born in 1941 in South Africa and was educated at the University of Natal, where she obtained her first degree in law, and at Harvard University Law School in the United States, where she was awarded master’s and doctoral degrees in law. Prior to her election to the ICTR she served as acting Judge in the High Court of South Africa, and practiced law as an attorney before that court from 1967 to 1995. As an attorney she defended a number of opponents of apartheid. She brought upon herself the repressive attention of the state security forces of the apartheid regime and was denied a passport for many years.
Judge Pillay has sat on the board of directors and trustees of numerous non-governmental organizations. She has delivered lectures on international criminal law at the invitation of universities in Africa, Europe and the United States, and has won several awards and citations for human rights achievements.
The election of judges of the International Criminal Court will take place at the next meeting of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the Court which will be held in New York between 3 and 7 February 2003. A total of 85 States have so far ratified the Rome Statute.