Judge who backed Israel at ICJ is elected court’s vice president

The Ugandan judge was the only member of the panel to reject all of the court’s provisional measures during South Africa’s genocide case against Israel


Julia Sebutinde, the only ICJ judge to back Israel in its case against South Africa, will serve a three-year term as the court's vice president. (Photo: International Court of Justice)

Ugandan judge Julia Sebutinde, the only member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to vote against all six of the court's provisional measures in South Africa's genocide case against Israel, was elected vice president of the ICJ on Tuesday.

Sebutinde, who will serve a three-year term, was one of only two judges out of 17 serving on the panel to vote against any of the measures.

Israeli Judge Aharaon Barak, appointed as an ad-hoc judge for the case, was the only other judge to reject one of the provisional measures. Barak, however, voted in favor of a measure demanding Israel facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza as well as a measure demanding Israel "take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip."

Sebutinde’s 11-page dissent outlined her view that South Africa had failed to demonstrate that the acts allegedly committed by Israel in its war with Hamas had genocidal intent.

She also wrote that the conflict was outside the remit of the ICJ’s litigation: “The dispute between the State of Israel and the people of Palestine is essentially and historically a political one, calling for a diplomatic or negotiated settlement.”

Following the ruling, the Ugandan government distanced itself from Sebutinde and emphasised its support for South Africa’s case, writing in a statement that Sebutinde’s dissenting opinion “does not in any way reflect the position of the Government of the Republic of Uganda”.

Sebutinde, 69, will serve as vice president alongside judge Nawaf Salam, who was simultaneously elected president of the ICJ for a concurrent three-year term. Prior to becoming a member of the ICJ in February 2012, Sebutinde served as a judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2005 to 2011. She is the first African woman to sit on the ICJ.

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