Lebanese, Ugandan judges Nawaf Salam, Julia Sebutinde to head ICJ

Lebanese, Ugandan judges Nawaf Salam, Julia Sebutinde to head ICJ
Judge Nawaf Salam, from Lebanon, has been elected as the new President of the ICJ, while Uganda's Judge Julia Sebutinde was elected as vice president.
2 min read
07 February, 2024
Salam, who succeeded Judge Joan E Donoghue from the USA, served as a Member of the ICJ since 2018 [Getty]

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has elected Judge Nawaf Salam from Lebanon as its new president for a three-year term starting from February 2023.

The ICJ also elected Judge Julia Sebutinde from Uganda as its vice-president, also serving a three-year term.

Salam, who succeeded Judge Joan E Donoghue from the USA, has served as a member of the ICJ since 2018 and previously held the position of Lebanon's ambassador to the United Nations.

His election marks a significant milestone for both the ICJ and Lebanon.

Since the ICJ's establishment, Lebanon has only had one other judge elected – Fouad Ammoun in 1965.

Throughout his time at the UN, Salam has:
repeatedly defended the rights of Palestinians at the Security Council,
called for a political settlement that would allow Syrians to live "in peace and dignity",
advocated for security and stability in South Lebanon through the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701

However, Salam's career has not been without controversy. The Lebanese delegation to the UN chose to abstain on several key resolutions, particularly a 2011 resolution that condemned "grave and systematic human rights violations" in Syria.

At the time, several outspoken Lebanese politicians called for Salam's resignation after this vote for not taking an ethical stand against the Assad regime.

Nawaf, who was born into a prominent family from Beirut, served as a member of the Executive Bureau of the Economic and Social Council of Lebanon from 1999 to 2002, and as a member of the Lebanese National Commission of UNESCO from 2000 to 2004.

In 1996, Nawaf co-founded the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE), a non-governmental monitoring organisation to promote fair and transparent parliamentary and municipal elections.

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The ICJ is the highest judicial body in the world and legislates over legal disputes between member states of the United Nations.

The latest appointments, which were made public in a press release on Tuesday, came just weeks after the ICJ issued a preliminary ruling urging Israel to refrain from acts under the Genocide Convention after South Africa alleged genocide by Israel

Equally notable was the election of Judge Sebutinde as the vice-president of the ICJ. She recently made headlines for her dissenting opinion in South Africa's case against Israel by being the only judge to question Israel's 'genocidal intent' and suggested that the case was being improperly forced into the context of a treaty.

This article relied in part on research published by Monique Bouffé in The New Arab.