Who is Adila Hassim, the lawyer representing South Africa in Gaza genocide case against Israel?

Who is Adila Hassim, the lawyer representing South Africa in Gaza genocide case against Israel?
Adila Hassim is a renowned South African lawyer, acclaimed for expertise in constitutional law and her passionate advocacy for human rights and anti-corruption.
3 min read
13 January, 2024
Adila [R] is said to prefer to keep her ethnic background private, and only be portrayed as a South African citizen [Getty]

Adila Hassim, a prominent South African lawyer, recently captured international attention with her compelling representation of South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

During the opening arguments, Adila emphasised the severity of Israel’s brutal onslaught on Gaza, describing it as one of the heaviest conventional bombing campaigns in modern warfare history.

She highlighted the destruction of Palestinian towns and the inadequate aid reaching the population, rendering essentials for life unobtainable.

Her impassioned address, made before a 15-judge panel in a packed courtroom, garnered widespread applause online, leaving many wondering who she was.

Statements at the ICJ

Adila, known for her expertise in constitutional and human rights law, presented a formidable case against Israel, accusing it of genocidal acts in Gaza.

She argued at the ICJ that Israel had breached Article II of the Genocide Convention by its "mass killing" of Palestinians in Gaza.

"Israel deployed 6,000 bombs per week … No one is spared. Not even newborns. UN chiefs have described it as a graveyard for children," she said.

"Nothing will stop the suffering, except an order from this court," she added. South Africa has demanded that the ICJ order Israel to suspend its military campaign.

Legal career and corruption work

Adila worked in law for decades, specialising in constitutional, administrative, health, and competition law. She has donned multiple hats, including that of an acting judge, and of a Constitutional Court law clerk to Pius Langa and Edwin Cameron.

Beyond the courtrooms, Hassim advocates against corruption and for human rights. She co-authored a handbook on human rights, health law, and policy in South Africa.

As a co-founder of Corruption Watch and a former Director of Litigation at Section 27, she has advocated for societal reforms and the rights of marginalised groups, by pushing for transparency and accountability in governance.

Early life

Adila, who is reportedly in her 30s, is said to prefer to keep her age and ethnic background private, and only be portrayed as a South African citizen.

On the academic front, Adila holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at the University of Natal.  She then obtained a Master of Laws (LLM) from Saint Louis University School of Law followed by a Doctorate.

Adila is also a mother to at least one boy, who tweeted about being proud of her during her ICJ argument.

South Africa at the ICJ

The legal representatives from South Africa accused Israel of perpetrating genocide against the Palestinian people and urgently requested the United Nations' highest court to intervene and stop Israel’s war on Gaza.

In response, Israel - which has so far killed over 23,000 Palestinians in Gaza has refuted the claims.

Meanwhile, the South African legal team contended that the conflict represents a prolonged period of Palestinian oppression.