Law was not my career choice, says judge feted with prestigious International award

Justice Joyce Aluoch delivers a speech after she got the 2018 Fletcher Award at the Tufts University in Massachusetts, US yesterday. [Courtesy]
Justice Joyce Aluoch is a judge of many firsts.

She was the first Kenyan Judge to sit at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

She finished her term at the Hague court in April, where she was the Vice President of Trial Division of the court.

Less than five months later, Justice Aluoch has been feted with the Fletcher Award by the US Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

She becomes the first African to receive the award.

While receiving the award on Friday, Justice Aluoch reflected on her journey towards top echelons in the legal practice, and how her father prodded her into studying law.

Potential lawyer

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Knowing his daughter was not too keen on pursuing law, but perhaps seeing in her a potential lawyer, Aluoch's father gently made her focus into a career that would see her receive global recognition.

When Aluoch later asked her father why he edged her on to law, he told her he wanted the best for her.

The 70-year-old judge told the audience that law was not her first career choice, but her father's.

"I have never regretted how fate and my father conspired to get me into the legal profession," said Aluoch.

Justice Aluoch was appointed ICC judge in 2009 and went on to become the Vice President of the court's Trial Division Six years later. 

While receiving the award, Aluoch described the moment as humbling.

"As a child born in the colonial era in Kenya, I would have never imagined that 70 years later I would be in front of you accepting an award commemorating the class of 1947, " said Aluoch.

The Fletcher Memorial Award is given annually to a mid- to late-career professional alumnus who embodies the Fletcher mission and has upheld these ideals throughout his/her career. 

Justice Aluoch is an alumnus of the school, having pursued a Masters in International Relations, which propelled her to take up the ICC position.

Aluoch's career started as an advocate in Kenya after graduating from the University of Nairobi's School of Law and obtaining a diploma from the Kenya School of Law.

She rose to become a High Court judge before being promoted to the Court of Appeal and later joining ICC.

She is also a holder of Elder of the Burning Spear and Trailblazers awards from the Office of the President.

"When you reach out for more, challenge yourself to do better, then your possibilities will become unlimited. You will suddenly be tested and that is how you get to make a mark in the bigger world,"she said.

To change the world

She added: "The ability to answer to the call of justice is what defines those who change the world."

From her experience at the ICC, Justice Aluoch listed a number of challenges in attaining justice in a rapidly changing world.

"Justice is the cornerstone of stable societies, but we are still struggling to accept some complements of justice," she said.

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Justice Joyce AluochInternational Criminal CourtICCThe HagueFletcher Award