Antwerp professor elected to International Court
Belgian jurist Christine Van den Wyngaert was last week elected to the post of judge at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Van den Wyngaert was one of 21 candidates for six vacant positions on the bench and was elected by representatives of the 108 countries that have ratified the treaty founding the court. â€œIt was a very emotional moment,â€ she said. â€œWhile I was watching Obama explain his dream on TV, my own dream came true.â€
Van den Wyngaert already sits on the bench of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), where she was appointed last year as lead judge in the trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan KaradÅ¾iÄ‡. â€œThis is the finalisation of a trajectory that has taken me years of work,â€ she said.
She first became interested in international criminal law in the 1980s, when the notion of a supranational criminal jurisdiction was only â€œa far-off idealâ€. Since then she has sat on a committee set up to update the Geneva Conventions, as well as serving on the International Court of Justice, the body which rules on disputes between states, all the while teaching at the University of Antwerp. Since 2003, she has sat on the bench of the ICTY, also based in the Hague.
The ICC was set up in 2002 to deal with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, but can only prosecute crimes committed after that date. There are 108 signatory nations, notable exceptions being Israel and the United States. The court is currently investigating four â€œsituationsâ€ worldwide: Congo, the Central African Republic, Darfur region in Sudan and northern Uganda.
â€œThis is a high court that still has to make its mark,â€ Van den Wyngaert said. â€œThe important thing is that the sitting judges have practical experience and that the procedures become streamlined. And as many countries as possible have to sign up.â€ The arrival of Barack Obama in the White House offers new hope: â€œItâ€™s crucial that the US work with the court, but Bush pulled out. I hope Obama can turn the tide and sign and ratify the treaty,â€ she said.