Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch: “I KNEW IT WAS GOING TO BE CHALLENGING. THIS IS A COUNTRY THAT HAS BEEN IN CONFLICT FOR A LONG TIME…”

Forbes Africa
Published 21 days ago
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75| FORMER JUDGE OF THE HIGH COURT OF KENYA AND PRESIDING JUDGE OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC) AT THE HAGUE| KENYA

By Marie Shabaya

A trailblazer in many respects, the esteemed Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch carries her title with grace. After a long judicial career that spanned over four decades, she has now taken on a new set of challenges including a career in high-level mediation running in parallel with an assignment to reform the judiciary of South Sudan; Africa’s youngest nation.

“I remember that I wasn’t terribly convinced [to take on this role]…I had never been to Juba. I had never been to South Sudan. I knew it was going to be challenging. This is a country that has been in conflict for a long time and this is a government in transition,” she explains.

For much of her career, the Lady Justice has been presiding over some of the continent’s most definitive legal decisions, particularly during her nineyear term as a judge on the bench at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. In order to serve one of the highest benches in the world, candidates must be
nominated by their governments.

For the Lady Justice, her appointment was a matter of fate.

“As if fate would have it, the candidate who had been nominated [for the role]…his name had been sent to The Hague and also to New York and nominations had been closed. Come September of the same year, nominations were open [again] because Asia Pacific had not sent names. It was during that brief opening that things happened. The original candidate [from Kenya] whose name had been sent was withdrawn and my name was substituted.”

As a presiding judge at the ICC, the Lady Justice was assigned to cases related to war crimes in Darfur, the post-election civil war in the Ivory Coast, and the case of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi; son of the late Muammar al Gaddafi of Libya. Off the bench, the Lady Justice has served on a number of pivotal committees including an appointment as the First Chairperson of the Committee of African Union Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child as well as being the Vice-Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child from 2003 to 2009.

Now in her seventh decade, the work continues. A life-long love of learning and curiosity keeps her going, she admits. It has also supported the longevity of her career in the law and allowed to serve on a diversity of cases and assignments.

“By the time I retired from The Hague, I had served as magistrate and judge for a total of 44 years. Some opportunities will knock on your door but not all opportunities. Most opportunities you have to look out for,” she advises