Friday, December 16, 2011

Sebutinde elected to ICJ

(Delighted to welcome back alumna Cymie Payne, who contributes this guest post)

There's a new member at the International Court of Justice: Julia Sebutinde, elected Tuesday by the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations.
She is currently a judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, where as a member of Trial Chamber II she's taken part in the adjudication of cases including that against former Liberian President Charles Taylor. (Prior IntLawGrrls post) Her separate concurring opinion in Prosecutor v. Brima et al. (the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council case) was widely discussed for its examination of forced marriage and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity.
As detailed in the CV that's an annex here, among Sebutinde's many other achievements is service on the High Court of Uganda, the country where she was born in 1954. (credit for photo of Sebutinde made in 2009, when she was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Edinbrugh, from which she'd earned an LL.M. in 1990)
She will replace Judge Abdul G. Koroma, of Sierra Leone, whose second nine-year term concludes in February 2012. Although the African Union endorsed Sebutinde’s candidacy, Sierra Leone had proposed re-election of Koroma; thus several rounds of voting were required before Sebutinde obtained the requisite majority of votes in both the Security Council and the General Assembly.
ICJ judges serve in their individual capacity, not as representatives of their government. However, the nationality of the judges generally includes each of the permanent five Security Council members plus representatives of the regional groups of the United Nations; hence some would characterize this seat on the court as "belonging" to Africa. Explanations of ICJ election procedures are here and here.
This week's election was the fourth of a woman since the fifteen-member court was established in 1946. In 1995, Dame Rosalyn Higgins of Britain became the first woman to be elected to the ICJ; as posted, she was its president from 2006 until her retirement in 2009. Three women have been chosen as judges ad hoc: Suzanne Bastid, the pioneering French jurist who died in 1995, Christine van den Wyngaert of Belgium (prior post), now a judge on the International Criminal Court, and Australian National University Law Professor Hilary Charlesworth, an IntLawGrrls guest/alumna, who is currently a judge ad hoc for the Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan) case (prior post).
Sebutinde will be the third woman on the current bench, joining Judges Joan E. Donoghue of the United States (prior posts) and Xue Hanqin of China (prior posts), both elected in 2010.

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