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Tomoko Akane Selected First Japanese President of International Criminal Court

Japanese judge Tomoko Akane takes on the presidency as the ICC faces mounting calls to help ensure accountability in war-torn lands such as Ukraine and Gaza.



Tomoko Akane in an interview at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, December 2023 (© Kyodo)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) appointed Judge Tomoko Akane as its new president on March 11. Chosen through a mutual vote among the 18 judges, she assumed office on the same day. In doing so, she made history as the first Japanese individual to hold the position of ICC Director. 

Her appointment comes against the backdrop of mounting calls for accountability in war-torn regions. In particular, the ICC has been called on amidst Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the Gaza conflict in the Palestinian territories. Akane now steps into the role as the public "face" of this international tribunal headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands.

Amidst mounting tensions with Russia in March of 2023, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Subsequently, that summer, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs issued a warrant for Judge Akane. It accused her of "issuing unjustified arrest warrants," mirroring similar actions taken against ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan.

Tomoko Akane Assumes Presidency of the International Criminal Court - United Nations Headquarters in New York. (© Sankei by Yusuke Hirata)

Japanese Woman Leader

In a phone interview with The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward on March 11, Judge Akane underscored the gravity. "Japan's significant status as an ICC signatory in Asia highlights the importance of having a Japanese individual assume the presidency. This motivated my decision to step forward. I carry a profound sense of responsibility." 

As president, she outlined her plans to prioritize bolstering collaboration between the ICC and Japan. She hoped to establish a regional office in Tokyo to serve as a pivotal hub for public relations efforts.

Originally from Aichi Prefecture, Judge Akane began her legal career in 1982 as a prosecutor in Japan. She later served as the chief prosecutor of the Hakodate district in Hokkaido. 

Over the years, she held positions such as a professor at Nagoya University Law School. She was also the director of the United Nations Asia and Far East Institute for the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (UNAFEI). In March 2018, she became an ICC judge.

The presidential election took place due to the conclusion of the term of Judge Piotr Hofmański, a Polish national. Judge Akane is the 6th President and she will serve a three-year term. In her capacity, she will oversee the court's operations, personnel matters, and coordination with signatory countries.

International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands (© Kyodo)

About the ICC

Established in 2002, ICC stands as a permanent international tribunal prosecuting individuals for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and acts of aggression

Presently, 124 countries and regions are members, with Japan joining in 2007. Japan stands as the largest contributor to the ICC, covering 15% of its budget. Neither the United States, China, nor Russia are members.


(Read the report in Japanese.)

Author: The Sankei Shimbun


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