Ugandan judge against world court’s Gaza decision

Julia Sebutinde

Ugandan judge Julia Sebutinde was the only member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to vote against all of the six so-called provisional measures that the court ordered on Friday to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

The measures were approved by an overwhelming majority of the 17 judges who heard South Africa’s case against Israel. An Israeli judge voted in favour of two of the six.

Sebutinde, however, was the only judge who voted against all of them.

Sebutinde is the first African woman to sit on the ICJ.

Born in February 1954, Sebutinde is a Ugandan judge serving her second term at the ICJ, in which she has been a judge since March 2012. She is the first African woman to sit on the international court.

According to the Institute for African Women in Law, Sebutinde comes from a modest family and was born during a period when Uganda was actively fighting for independence from the United Kingdom.

She studied at Makerere University in Uganda and received a bachelor of laws degree in 1977, at the age of 23.

In 1990, at the age of 36, she went to Scotland, where she earned a master of laws degree with distinction from the University of Edinburgh. In 2009, the same university awarded an honorary doctorate of laws degree to her.

Before being elected to the ICJ, Sebutinde was a judge of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. She was appointed to that position in 2007.

In that court, Sebutinde was one of three presiding judges in the trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor for war crimes committed in Sierra Leone.

The Special Court found Taylor guilty on 11 counts, including charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, terrorism, murder, rape and the use of child soldiers, resulting in a 50-year prison sentence.

In her dissenting opinion in South Africa’s case against Israel, Sebutinde stated: “In my respectful dissenting opinion the dispute between the State of Israel and the people of Palestine is essentially and historically a political one.”

She added: “It is not a legal dispute susceptible to judicial settlement by the court.”

She also said South Africa did not demonstrate that the acts allegedly committed by Israel in Gaza were “committed with the necessary genocidal intent, and that as a result, they are capable of falling within the scope of the Genocide Convention”.

Experts argued that Sebutinde failed to conduct a thorough assessment of the situation.

“I think what the dissenting opinion gets wrong is that genocide is not a political dispute, it’s a legal matter. Both South Africa and Israel signed the Genocide Convention and accept the jurisdiction over breaches of the Genocide Convention and failure to prevent genocide,” Mark Kersten, assistant professor at the University of the Fraser Valley focusing on human rights law, told Al Jazeera.

“You cannot simply say this is something for history, this is something for politics. Of course, history and politics play a role,” he added.

Uganda’s ambassador to the United Nations, Adonia Ayebare, also expressed a different opinion.

“Justice Sebutinde’s ruling at the International Court of Justice does not represent the Government of Uganda’s position on the situation in Palestine,” he said in a statement on X (Twitter).

– Al Jazeera

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News