Tomoko Akane Becomes 1st Japanese Judge Elected to Head ICC; Akane Received Arrest Warrant from Russia for Pursuing War Crimes (Update 1)

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Tomoko Akane

THE HAGUE — Judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC) elected Judge Tomoko Akane as its president on Monday. Akane immediately assumed the duties of the three-year-post, becoming the first Japanese national to head the ICC since its establishment in 2002.

Akane, 67, will steer the court that is handling war crimes regarding Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and violations of international law related to the fighting between Israel and the Hamas militant group.

“I feel like I have taken responsibility for everyone’s hard work,” Akane said in a telephone interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun. “I will work hard to create an environment in which ICC judges, prosecutors and staff can achieve justice.”

The ICC president was elected through an internal vote among 18 judges behind closed doors. The court prosecutes individuals involved in acts such as mass killings, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The election was held upon the expiration of the term of former ICC President Piotr Hofmanski, a Polish national.

The ICC has 124 member states and regions. In March last year, the court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and others on suspicion of war crimes for forcibly transferring many children from the occupied territories of Ukraine. Akane was one of three judges who presided over the case, and Russia retaliated by issuing a warrant for her arrest.

A native of Aichi Prefecture, Akane became a prosecutor in 1982 and served as a public prosecutor of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office. While serving in that post, she was also the ambassador for the Foreign Ministry’s International Judicial Cooperation. She became the third Japanese to serve as an ICC judge in 2018.

Another Japanese national who took an international judicial post is the Empress’ father, Hisashi Owada, who served from 2009 to 2012 as the president of The Hague’s International Court of Justice, which settles disputes between nations.