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Judge Khalida Rashid and the Rwanda Tribunal

June 2, 2011

It is an honor when a Pakistani is appointed as a president of an international tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide. Moreover, it is quite encouraging when the person making to the top position happens to be a woman. Lastly, nothing explains the surge of pride when that president hails from one’s hometown that is known as culturally and religiously conservative. I am talking about a Judge from Peshawar, Khalida Rashid, who was recently appointed as the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established in 1994 by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 955. The chief purpose of the tribunal was reconciliation and maintenance of peace through prosecution of perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda that took 500,000 lives in first hundred days of the civil conflict between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus, while the total number of deaths was estimated around 800,000.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is based in Arusha, Tanzania and it consists of three Trial Chambers and an Appeals Chamber. For the election of judges, the United Nations member states make a list of nominees from which the Security Council choose the judges and submit it to General Assembly, from that list the judges are elected for the tribunal. The judges are appointed for four years and can be re-elected. There are total of twenty-five judges serving in the tribunal.

Judge Khalida Rashid was appointed the judge of tribunal in 2003. In 2007 she was elected Vice-President. In 2009 she was re-elected for the second term. On 25 May, 2011 she was elected the President of the tribunal. She is the fourth president and the second female president of the tribunal. The other female president was the South African Judge Navi Pillay, who is currently the UN High Commissioner for human rights.

Judge Khalida Rashid was born in 1949 in Peshawar. She obtained her LL.B degree from the Khyber Law College, Peshawar in 1969 and her Masters in Political Science from the Peshawar University in 1971. She was inducted in the NWFP (now Khyber Pukhtunkhuwa) judiciary in 1974 as the first female Civil Judge. In 1979 she was promoted to District and Sessions Judge and had an honor of becoming the first female Sessions Judge in sub-continent. In 1994, she became the judge of the Peshawar High Court; once again she achieved the milestone of becoming one of the first female judges appointed in the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan.

At the international level the appointment of female judges could possibly be elucidated as a deliberate effort to ensure the participation of women in the international justice system. Not many people realize that for the first time in history, criminal tribunals like the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, criminalized the war time rape by making it part of “crimes against humanity” and a component of genocide. This initiative was taken in the wake of mass and systematic rape in Rwanda and Bosnia. The trial of rape perpetrators would have attracted criticism in the absence of women representation in the international justice system and that might have severely damaged the credibility of those tribunals.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has decided thirty-two cases so far, twenty cases are in progress while one is awaiting trial. For the development of International Law and International Humanitarian Law, the Akayesu case proved extremely important as the tribunal declared rape as genocide stating it, “… a physical invasion of a sexual nature, committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive”. The tribunal designated a synonymous meaning to rape and genocide because both those acts are initiated to destroy an opponent group. On June 24, the tribunal will deliver verdict in yet another rape trial.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is of a temporary nature and is expected to end its work by 2012. The legacy of this tribunal will always be remembered for declaring war-time rape as an act of genocide. Others will remember it for the fact that a Pakistani female judge presided at this tribunal.

Edited version available on: The Express Tribune 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Moran permalink
    June 5, 2011 8:45 pm

    I had the honor of practicing before Judge Khan in the Government II case at the ICTR. Earlier, I had the privilege of practicing before another Pakastani judge, Judge Saad Saood Jan, at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
    Judge Jan was one of the finest judges I’ve ever practiced before. He was smart, knowledgable and had a wonderful sense of humor. After the trial, we communicated by e-mail for years, until his death. I considered him a friend.
    Judge Khan had a hard act to follow to meet the standard of Judge Jan. She met that standard.
    Having practiced before those two judges for about seven years in complex litigation, all I can say is that if they are representative of the Pakistani judiciary, it’s one group of good judges.
    Judge Khan reminds me of our first woman judge in Houston, Texas. They would have been great friends. Both came up in a legal system that did not value women lawyers. Both turned out to be outstanding judges.

    • June 7, 2011 11:32 am

      Nice to hear about your good experience with Pakistani judges.

      You may find it interesting that Judge Khan was nominated by Pakistan for an Int. tribunal to avoid her appointment as a Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court. I believe she is better off serving in ICTR.

  2. June 6, 2011 4:50 am

    Another one to be celebrated by the nation of Pakistan. But I am afraid she will be forgotten just like our real hero Professor Doctor Abdus Salam.

    • June 7, 2011 11:34 am

      Dr. Abdus Salam was not given due respect because he happened to be an Ahmadi.

      Judge Khalida Rashid couldn’t make it to the post of Chief Justice of Peshawar High Court because she was a woman.

  3. Javed Iqbal permalink
    August 17, 2012 3:30 pm

    I am in need to contact Judge Khalida Rashid Khan; because she is known to me, and we past some memorized day in a trip. But i do not have her contact. If any one have mail me on >> ummati_1319@yahoo.com<< me belong from Peshawar. the old Peshawartise people . Hindko waly.

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