Law expert Neeru Chadha, who has represented India on various international platforms, has become the first Indian woman to be appointed as a judge at a top UN tribunal dealing with maritime disputes.
Ms Chadha won the nine-year term at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on 14 June 2017.
ITLOS is an intergovernmental organisation that was set up in 1996 in Hamburg, Germany and established an international framework for law over “all ocean space, its uses and resources”. On Wednesday, 14 June, seven members of the Tribunal were elected in a session at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Elections for one third of the judges of the Tribunal are held every three years. The judges are elected by the States Parties to the Convention by secret ballot for a term of nine years and may be re-elected.
An eminent lawyer, Ms Chadha was the first woman to become the chief legal adviser at the Ministry of External Affairs (2012) and also represented India before ITLOS and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Her term as an ITLOS judge begins on 1 October 2017.
The official ITLOS press release regarding the recent election can be read here.
A significant win for India
Ms Chadha, who will soon sit on the ITLOS judge bench, has known the other side of the bench too. Previously, she successfully represented India in the case brought by Italy demanding the release of two Italian marines who were charged by India with killing two fishermen (details here).
An alumnus of the University of Michigan, Ms Chadha also successfully represented India in an ICJ case brought by the Marshall Islands concerning negotiations relating to cessation of nuclear weapons and India’s alleged failure of living up to the agreement.
India's Dr Neeru Chadha records handsome victory.
First Indian woman to be elected to International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas. pic.twitter.com/vrP3EHGDlh
— Syed Akbaruddin (@AkbaruddinIndia) June 14, 2017
Neeru Chadha’s election was received with jubilation by Indian diplomats. India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, expressed gratitude for the broad support of countries that resulted in Ms Chadha’s “emphatic success” at the elections to the ITLOS. “It reflects both an appreciation of India’s global standing in matters of international law and the recognition for Chadha’s expertise as a lawyer and negotiator on contemporary issues related to the Law of the Seas,” Mr Akbaruddin told PTI.
Ms Chadha was elected in the first round of voting, with 120 votes, the highest in the Asia Pacific group. The candidate from Indonesia got 58 votes, while those from Lebanon got 60 and Thailand got 86. The other three candidates went for a second round of voting, in which Thailand won the other seat in the Asia Pacific group.
Neeru Chadha has also represented India in various other multilateral meetings and conferences in the United Nations, AALCO (Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation), UNIDROIT (International Institute for the Unification of Private Law), UNCITRAL (UN Commission on International Trade Law), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi— Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) on subjects relating to human rights, humanitarian law, international trade, international terrorism and international criminal law.
With her election, Ms Chadha has become the first Indian woman to occupy a top UN position after Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, who in 1953 became the President of the United Nations General Assembly (the first woman to achieve this feat).