Saiga to be judge on International Criminal Court


Fumiko Saiga, Japanese ambassador in charge of human rights and a member of the U.N. Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, was elected Friday to fill one of three vacant judge seats on the International Criminal Court.

Saiga, the first Japanese to take that post, received 82 votes, which is more than the two-thirds majority required from the 105 countries eligible to cast secret ballots.

Saiga is a prominent Japanese diplomat who has extensive experience working with the international body. She has held several key posts, from consul general in Seattle to an ambassador post at the Japanese mission in New York and Japanese ambassador to Norway and Iceland.

The diplomat, nominated by the Japanese national group in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, is recognized as a human rights expert and is particularly well-versed on gender issues.

She is also known for her attempts to bring greater recognition to the plight of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s.

The independent and permanent court, which consists of 18 judges, tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern — genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Saiga qualified for consideration on the basis of her experience in international law, whereas the other two candidates were required to be chosen from a pool of nominees with expertise in international law and procedure.

“We are very pleased. Japan has succeeded in the International Criminal Court and it took several years,” said Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu, noting that Japan had recently become a member of the ICC.

Bruno Cotte of France received 79 votes, becoming the second judge. However, the other candidates from Uganda, Trinidad and Tobago and Panama failed to pass the minimum vote requirement.

The Hague-based ICC is based on a treaty joined by 105 countries that went into effect in 2002. Japan became a signatory country this year.

The United States, China and Russia have yet to ratify the treaty for fear that their troops, deployed worldwide, could be prosecuted.