An Irish lawyer has been appointed to serve on the new International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
Maureen Harding Clark, 57, one of Ireland’s leading woman criminal lawyers, received more votes than any of seven – six women and one man – nominated for the court, which should be up and running next month.
She already serves as a part-time judge on the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
She has experience in criminal and international humanitarian law and particular expertise in the area of sexual and other violent offences against women and children.
Representatives of 85 countries that have ratified the treaty establishing the court will choose another 11 judges later today.
The US strongly opposes the court and, therefore, was not allowed to vote or submit any candidates.
President Bush objects to the idea that Americans would be subject to the court’s jurisdiction and has lobbied countries to sign bilateral agreements exempting US citizens from trial.
In addition to Ms Harding Clark, other winners included Diarra Fatoumatata Dembele of Mali, Sylvia Steiner of Brazil, Akua Kuemyehia of Ghana, Elizabeth Odio Benito of Costa Rica and Navanethen Pillay, the South African judge who serves as president of the international tribunal for Rwanda.
South Korean law professor Song Sang-Hyun was the only man elected.
“Give women a chance – if states nominate them, they will be elected and serve with distinction,” said Felice Gaer, director of the New York-based Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.
Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch said the results were a major victory for women.
“This is terrifically important because so many of the crimes that this court will be investigating and trying (were) committed against women,” he said.
All 18 judges will be sworn in by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands on March 11. The court will open its doors for business at The Hague once a chief prosecutor is selected in April.
Dicker said early cases before the court would most likely come from Colombia, Congo and the Central African Republic.