New milestone for Fiji lawyer

A Fiji lawyer appointed to the International Criminal Court has achieved another milestone.

In April, Ana Tuiketei-Bolabiu became the first Pacific woman counsel on a global roster working for the ICC in the Hague.

This week, she was elected on the Defence Committee of the ICC's Bar Association.

Tuiketei-Bolabiu said she wanted to see more Pacific lawyers put their hands up to serve at the Hague.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity. But I also realise that as Pacific Islanders and for women that hopefully this is a symbolism for the next generation of law students to join in and be a part of this platform."

Ana Tuiketei-Bolabiu was nominated by her colleague Juan Carlos Manriquez, a Chilean lawyer working with her on matters arising from war and violence in Northern Iraq.

Her admission to a list of more than 800 senior legal practitioners from around the globe was confirmed in April, and her profile and biographical details were added to the ICC online database in May.

Tuiketei-Bolabiu said her latest appointment came as a surprise.

"The people who are normally elected on this committee are seasoned professionals with a wealth of expertise at the ICC," she said.

"I see this as an opportunity for Fijians and Pacific Islanders to be part of an international organisation and prove that there is talent in our region as well."

Between Fiji in 1999 and Kiribati becoming the 123rd signatory in 2019, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Cook Islands and Vanuatu are all parties to the ICC. New Zealand and Australia signed in 1998.

There had only been one ICC judge from the Pacific. Samoa's Tuiloma Neroni Slade served from 2003 -2006 and Fiji's Jai Ram Reddy presided over the ICC Tribunal on Rwanda.

Fiji's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem-Khan, was part of a special advisory body to the ICC on gender and violence, leading training for prosecutors and court officials in recent years.

But women made up less than a third of the 18 judges on the ICC, and Tuiloma Slade remained the only Pacific judge to have served at that level.

Tuiketei-Bolabiu is also the only female-accredited World Rugby judicial officer and is one of two women on the sport's judiciary from Oceania.