A Japanese judge is set to become an International Criminal Court (ICC) judge this March upon her arrival in The Hague, in The Netherlands.
Tomoko Akane, 61, was selected as one of six new ICC judges following an election held in New York in December 2017, which included candidates from 12 different countries. Akane was chosen by garnering the largest number of votes partly due to her extensive prosecuting experience, which exceeds 30 years.
Reflecting on her impressive career, there is one case in particular that Akane will never forget. It was a murder trial that she handled as head of the Sapporo District Public Prosecutors Office's court proceeding division about 20 years ago, just before the statute of limitations was due to run out.
The trial made use of DNA testing, which was much less common at the time, but the final verdict was "not guilty." Akane was disappointed with the outcome, and although the victim's relatives expressed their appreciation, she found out the hard way about the importance of persistently hunting for the truth. "There are limits to the criminal justice system, but one must try one's best when trying to reach a verdict," the legal veteran says.
Akane's impressive resume includes a roughly seven-year spell at the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in Tokyo, which provides international training relating to the treatment of criminals, that is jointly overseen by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations.
There, she was chief of the institute and also worked in an educational role. She also got involved in international training relating to the treatment of female criminals. "In addition to punishment, it is also important to think how we can stop criminals from reoffending. I learned the importance of this," Akane reveals.
The ICC is a court that prosecutes and punishes individuals who have either committed war crimes or crimes against humanity. It has 123 member countries. However, countries such as the U.S., Russia and China have not joined, out of fear that the court could try citizens from their own countries.
"The ICC is an organization that needs to grow further. By steadily achieving a series of good results, I want to gain the trust of the international community," Akane says in a softly spoken but determined voice.