Shock, anger as Sebutinde backs Israel

Jan 26, 2024

Justice Sebutinde was the sole judge (among the 17 in the court) who ruled against every one of the emergency orders against Israel, even when the Israeli judge accepted some of them.

ICJ President Joan Donoghue (C) speaks at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) prior to the verdict announcement in the genocide case against Israel. (Photo by Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP)

By Charles Etukuri and . Agencies
Journalists @New Vision

There were mixed reactions on Friday, January 26, 2024 worldwide, after Justice Julia Sebutinde, a Uganda Judge and first African woman to sit on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) voted against all the provisional measures ICJ had ordered Israel to undertake following the case brought by South Africa on the war in Gaza.

Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations on Friday on his X-Platform (formerly Twitter) said, “Justice Sebutinde ruling at the ICJ does not represent the Government of Uganda’s position on the situation in Palestine. She has previously voted against Uganda’s case on Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Uganda’s support for the plight of the Palestinian people has been expressed through our voting pattern at the United Nations.”

Justice Sebutinde was the sole judge (among the 17 in the court) who ruled against every one of the emergency orders against Israel, even when the Israeli judge accepted some of them.

Justice Julia Sebutinde, a Uganda Judge and first African woman to sit on the International Court of Justice (ICJ). (File photo)

Justice Julia Sebutinde, a Uganda Judge and first African woman to sit on the International Court of Justice (ICJ). (File photo)

On Friday, ICJ found South Africa's claim that Israel is committing genocide plausible. The Court's pronouncement is largely seen as a victory for South Africa.

The Court issued an interim order urging Israel to stop obstructing aid deliveries into Gaza and improve the humanitarian situation.

South Africa in December last year, asked the ICJ to order Israel to immediately stop the war, alleging it has violated the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was drawn up in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.

The convention defines genocide as acts such as killings “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

South Africa asked the ICJ for a series of legally binding rulings declaring that Israel is breaching “its obligations under the Genocide Convention,” and ordering Israel to cease hostilities, offer reparations, and provide for the reconstruction of all it has destroyed in Gaza.

South Africa argued that the genocidal acts, which include killing Palestinians, causing serious mental and bodily harm, and deliberately inflicting conditions meant to “bring about their physical destruction as a group.”  It also said Israeli officials had expressed genocidal intent.

By 15  votes against 2, the Court directed that Israel shall, in accordance with its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in relation to the Palestinians in Gaza, take all measures within its powers to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article 2 of the Convention, in particular, killing members of the group; causing bodily or mental harm to the members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring the destruction of the group in whole or in part; and imposing measures to prevent birth within the group.

By 15 votes against 2, the ICJ noted that the State of Israel shall ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit any acts described above.

By 16 votes against one, the ICJ ruled that the State of Israel shall take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to the members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.

By 16 votes against 1, the court ruled that the State of Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza strip.

By 15:2 votes, the State of Israel shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to the allegations of acts within the scope of Articles 2 and 3 of the Genocide Convention.

By 15:2 votes, the State of Israel shall submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month.

Attacks on Sebutinde’s stand

Controversial Kenyan senior lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, who led the attack on his X-platform, said “Ugandans should be embarrassed and ashamed of Judge Julia Sebutinde of the ICJ...embarrassing beyond any measure!”

Professor Makau Mutua an international human rights lawyer said, “Justice Sebutinde, of Uganda is an embarrassment to Africa and the world.  What a shame!”

A Ugandan Primus Agaba said, “Faith - Blind Faith is what you're seeing in Justice Sebutinde. Wait when her memoirs say the judgement was written in consultation with a ‘Prophet’”.

Dudley Ochiel, a kenyan lawyer said, “the reasoning and logic of Judge Sebutinde should be studied in law schools around the globe. She went as far as voting against the ad hoc judge on emergency reliefs.”

However, Emmanuel Curuma defended her saying “Justice Sebutinde is right. The conflict is between two parties Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on one hand and HAMAS on the other hand. You cannot hold one party (IDF) accountable and let the other (HAMAS) roam around freely.”

When contacted, Pastor Jackson Ssenyonga of Christian Life Church Makerere said: “I believe the court’s ruling was to ensure that human life loss is prevented and/or minimized which is in itself a good thing, but when you’re dragged into an unprovoked fight by militants who allegedly don’t comply to combat rules and (the Hamas) are willing to use humans as shields against enemy fire, then human loss is hard to mininmize.

“From what I’ve read, Israel has been warning residents to clear areas it was intending to bombard, offering them ample time to leave. Moving forward, I would think Israel should continue to minimize civilian casualties and we all should cut some slack to Israel who has a right to defend itself as a sovereign nation.”

Uganda/NAM position on the conflict

Uganda which is the current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) maintains the same position as other member states. NAM on Saturday January 20, 2024, called Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip “illegal” and strongly condemned indiscriminate attacks against Palestinian civilians, civilian infrastructure and the forced displacement of the Palestinian population.

While calling for a ceasefire desperately needed for humanitarian aid to access the Gaza Strip, the movement in a joint statement called for a two-state solution, on the basis of the borders before 1967, when Israel seized Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a brief war with neighbouring Arab states.

The group also reiterated support for a Palestinian state to be admitted as a member of the United Nations to take its rightful place among the community of nations.

Ninety representatives, including 30 heads of state, from the 120 countries that are members of NAM took part in the week-long conference in the Ugandan capital, Kampala last week.

How the latest war began

On October 7, 2023, Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza carried out an attack against Israel early in the morning, firing barrages of rockets towards the southern and central part of the country. Over 1,200 Israelites and other nationalities were killed while several others were kidnapped.

Israel vowed to revenge and shortly after raided Gaza in search of the Hamas terrorists and also rescue the hostages. Since they entered Gaza, they have conducted a series of bombings, with reports indicating that over 25,000 Palestinians have died since October 2023.

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