By Lisa Williams
Fiji lawyer Ana Tuiketei Bolabiu has become the first Pacific advisor on the global list of working for the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
His admission to a cadre of more than 800 senior legal practitioners from all over the world was confirmed last week, and his biographical profile and details will be added to the ICC’s online database this month.
Bolabiu, a former prosecutor in Suva, accepted the offer to be an addition to the ICC advisory list of duties.
“I’m glad,” he told Bolabiu about the news of his acceptance. “I just thought ‘how extraordinary for the Pacific. What a great push for a female lawyer, and yes, because I am a product of the University of the South Pacific.’
Ms. Bolabiu checks the list of online advisors.
“There are lawyers on that list from all over the world, from Australia and New Zealand, but it is quite interesting that almost two decades later, a lawyer from the developing Pacific is now registered.”
The former USP student said the milestone was not something he thought about the registration process. He tried the application process, and found a work history that included a lot of diversity, including an internship with the SPC Regional Resource Team, training and networking, as well as being the youngest Fijian lawyer working in the Supreme Court.
Bolabiu also brings a world of experience above management roles in the Prosecutor’s Office and his own legal consulting business.
But why is 20 years waiting for the Pacific on the ICC Advisor list?
“Maybe because it’s too far. This is not the first thing that is clicked in the minds of law students or law workers.”
Bolabiu said he was eager to see more Pacific lawyers raise their hands to serve in The Hague.
He said given the signing of the Pacific countries in the founding document of the International Criminal Court system, it was an open door for Pacific ownership of global courts, “and I can be part of it now. I just hope that others have gone before me, that we were here earlier – but not too late! I am only the first, there are many more to come! “
The Covid-19 disturbance cloud has been suspended in a court in The Hague, but the ICC courtroom is not called a final choice court.
The ICC process kicks in which the national justice system cannot provide. As a task advisor, Ms. Bolabiu can receive calls with short notice from the 10 hour time zone behind Suva.
After allocating a case, his working days may involve the defense or prosecution of those accused of the most inhumane acts against humanity, war crimes, genocide, aggression.
Outside of the support of family, friends and colleagues in Fiji, Ana Bolabiu believes she is stepping on – although 20 years later – the path mandated by a handful of Forum Leaders.
Between Fiji in 1999 and Kiribati being the 123th signatory in 2019, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Cook Islands and Vanuatu are all parties to the ICC. New Zealand and Australia were signed in 1998.
There is only one ICC judge from the Pacific. Slade Tuiloma Neroni Samoa served from 2003-2006 and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji presided over the ICC Court in Rwanda. Fiji’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Nazhat Shameem Khan, is part of a special advisory body for the ICC on gender and violence, which has led training for prosecutors and court officials in recent years.
But women comprise less than a third of the 18 judges at the ICC, and Tuiloma Slade remains the only Pacific Judge who has ever served at that level.
“For me, as a list adviser and ICC task advisor, being part of this system represents what our Pacific leaders actually signed in the bodies of 123 ICC member countries,” Bolabiu said.
“They register to increase access to justice, the path to global peace, and to be part of the symbol of global hope. Having an independent judicial system and even setting standards of justice – a global court that protects the helpless, and victims.”
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