The Sixth Plenary Session of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda today unanimously elected Judge Navanethem Pillay (South Africa) President of the Tribunal for a mandate of two years. She replaces Judge Laïty Kama (Senegal) who was elected president in May 1995 and re-elected two years later but is unable to seek a third term as the Tribunal's Rules stipulate that the president can be re-elected only once.
Judge Pillay thus becomes the second President of the Tribunal since its establishment by the Security Council of the United Nations in November 1994. She was first elected a Judge by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 1995 and was re-elected last year for a four year term to expire in 2003.
Judge Pillay, born in 1941, became the first black woman to start a law practice in Natal (1967). She was also the first black woman attorney to be appointed acting judge of the Supreme Court in South Africa. In 1989 she was appointed of a lecturer at Natal University's department of Public Law. Judge Pillay was a trustee of Lawyers for Human Rights and the Legal Resource Centre, as well as a member of both the Women's National Coalition and the Black Lawyer's Association.
Judge Pillay graduated from the University of Natal before before proceeding to Harvard University in the United States where she obtained a Masters degree in Law and a Doctorate of Juridical Science. She was appointed Vice-President of the Council of the University of Durban Westville by President Mandela in 1995. She is also Chair of Equality Now, an international human rights, organisation for action on women's rights, based in New York.
The election took place at the end of the week-long Plenary session which brought together Judges of the three Trial Chambers and the Appeals Chamber, the Prosecutor and the Registrar, to deliberate on amendments to the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence. However only the Judges take part in the election of the President. The meeting was also attended by Mr. Hans Corell, Under Secretary General and Legal Counsel to the United Nations. Three new Judges were sworn in on the opening day of the session.