She was a regular girl from Peshawar who grew up to be appointed president of an international tribunal for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
Khalida Rashid, who was recently appointed as the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is a source of pride.
Rashid was born in 1949 in Peshawar. She obtained her LLB degree from Khyber Law College, Peshawar in 1969 and her Masters in Political Science degree from 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 the honour of becoming the first female Sessions Judge in the sub-continent. In 1994, she became the judge of the Peshawar High Court; once again she achieved the milestone of becoming the first female judge in the Superior Judiciary of Pakistan.
Judge Rashid was appointed the judge of the tribunal in 2003. In 2007, she was elected Vice-President. In 2009, she was re-elected for the second term. On May 25, 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.
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 the first hundred days of the civil conflict between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus, while the total number of deaths was estimated around 800,000.
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 realise 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, criminalised 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 the tribunals.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has decided 32 cases so far, 20 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 to be:
“… 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, 2011, the tribunal will deliver a verdict in yet another rape trial.
The legacy of this tribunal will always be remembered for declaring rape as an act of genocide.
Others will remember it for the fact that a Pakistani female judge presided at this tribunal.