By Ikenna Asomba

On March 11, 2018, the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), sitting in a plenary session, elected ‪Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji‬ (Nigeria) as President of the Court for a three-year term with immediate effect, an election that has been described as unprecedented across the globe.

‪Meanwhile, Judge Robert Fremr‬ (Czech Republic) was elected First Vice-President, while ‪Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut‬ (France) was elected Second Vice-President.

Who Is Chile Eboe-Osuji?

Judge Eboe-Osuji was born in Añara, Isiala Mbano, Imo state, Nigeria, on 2 September 1962. He obtained his bachelor of laws degree from the University of Calabar, Nigeria, master of laws degree from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and doctor of laws degree from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Eboe-Osuji was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1986 and practised briefly there. After obtaining his master of laws degree from McGill in 1991, he worked as a barrister in Canada, having been called to the Bar in Ontario and in British Columbia in 1993.

From 1997 to 2005, Eboe-Osuji worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as prosecution counsel and senior legal officer to the judges of the tribunal.

From 2005 to 2007, he worked in Canada as a barrister and law lecturer. Working for the Special Court for Sierra Leone as senior prosecution appeals counsel in 2007/08 and returning to the ICTR from 2008 to 2010 as Head of Chambers, he became the Legal Advisor to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in 2010, and held a cross-appointment as the principal prosecution appeals counsel at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, in the case of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia. He has authored two books and numerous law journal articles in international law.

On 16 December 2011, Eboe-Osuji was elected as a judge of the International Criminal Court. He won the office in the fifteenth ballot in the Assembly of States Parties. He took office on 11 March 2012.

From September 2013, Eboe-Osuji – alongside Judges Olga Venecia Herrera Carbuccia and Robert Fremr – presided over the trial against Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya, who was accused of stoking a wave of killing for political gain after the country’s contested 2007 elections.

Early on, he warned Kenyan media and bloggers that anyone revealing the identity of a protected witness at the Ruto trial could be guilty of contempt of court; ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda had previously complained that some witnesses were being intimidated in Kenya, some of whom withdrew from the case.

Following Eboe-Osuji’s own request, the Presidency of the ICC decided to reconstitute Trial Chamber V(b) in the trial against Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and replace him with Judge Geoffrey Henderson in early 2014.

However, Eboe-Osuji remains the Presiding Judge in Trial Chamber V(a) which continues to hear the case against Ruto and former Kass FM broadcaster Joshua Sang.

In April 2014, his chamber issued subpoenas for several prosecution witnesses no longer willing to testify in the case. Shortly after, Eboe-Osuji told off the government of Kenya for turning to the principle of sovereignty “at every convenient opportunity, with the evident aim of frightening judges”.

Chile Eboe-Osuji Reacts

However, reacting to his election, the Nigerian-born ICC Judge said in a statement, “I am deeply honoured to have been elected by my peers as President of the International Criminal Court. As I take up my duties, I feel encouraged that I am able to rely on the wide experience of the two Vice-Presidents, Judge Robert Fremr and Judge Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, both of whom I have closely worked with previously.

“I look forward to working together with them as well as with all the judges, all the Officials and the staff of the Court in a spirit of collegiality. I also look forward to collaborating with the Assembly of States Parties, civil society and the international community at large, acting together to strengthen and reinforce the Rome Statute system, the 20th anniversary of the adoption of which we celebrate this year.”

“I am also grateful to the previous President, Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, and Vice-Presidents, Judges Joyce Aluoch and Kuniko Ozaki, for their work and leadership,” he added.

The Presidency – consisting of the President and the two Vice-Presidents – plays a key role in providing strategic leadership to the ICC as a whole. The Presidency coordinates with the other organs and seeks the concurrence of the Prosecutor on matters of mutual concern.

In accordance with the Rome Statute, the ICC’s governing treaty, the Presidency is responsible for the proper administration of the Court, with the exception of the Office of the Prosecutor.

The Presidency oversees the activities of the Registry and provides input into a broad range of administrative policies affecting the Court’s overall functioning.

Furthermore it conducts judicial review of certain decisions of the Registrar and concludes Court-wide cooperation agreements with States and international organizations.

The Diplomatic Watch wishes President Chile Eboe-Osuji a successful and fruitful tenure.