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Uganda’s Sebutinde elected vice president of International Court of Justice

Uganda Judge, Justice Julia Sebutinde is the new Vice President of International Court of Jutcie (ICJ) PHOTO/COURTESY

Agencies (UG):– Ugandan Judge, Justice Julia Sebutinde, has been elected as the new vice president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) becoming the first African woman to sit on an international court.

The 69-year-old Sebutinde, elected by her peers, will head the international court for a term of three years according to a statement from the ICJ.

During her reign, Sebutinde is expected to deputise Judge Nawaf Salam (Lebanon) who was elected president to also serve for three years.

Her (Sebutinde) election as the ICJ Vice President comes days after her ruling on Gaza crisis left many dazed.

Sebutinde was one of the two judges who voted mostly against the six emergency measures in response to South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, leaving many observers around the world dazed and confused.

In a dissenting opinion, 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.”

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

Tayebwa congratulates Sebutinde

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa congratulated the Ugandan judge upon her new role saying thus; “Justice Julia Sebutinde, I extend my sincerest congratulations on your election as the Vice President of the International Court of Justice. Your esteemed colleagues on the bench have recognized your exceptional qualifications and dedication to the pursuit of justice.”

“This appointment is a testament to your unwavering commitment to upholding the principles of fairness and equity. As you assume this significant role, I trust that you will continue to navigate the complexities of the legal landscape with grace and wisdom.

“May the divine guidance of God accompany you throughout your tenure, as you make invaluable contributions to the international legal community. Once again, congratulations on this well-deserved achievement. Your leadership and expertise will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the judicial system.”

Profile Background

Born in Entebbe, Uganda, on 28 February 1954, Sebutinde has been a member of the International Court since 6 February 2012; re-elected as of 6 February 2021; and currently Vice-President since 6 February 2024. Before joining the Court, Vice-President Sebutinde was a judge at the Special Court for Sierra Leone from 2005 to 2011.

Sebutinde has a Doctorate of Laws, honoris causa, University of Edinburgh, U.K., for distinguished service in the field of international justice and human rights (2009); Master of Laws Degree with Distinction (LL.M.), University of Edinburgh, U.K which she got in 1990.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws Degree (LL.B.) from Makerere University in 1977, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, Law Development Centre in 1978; Certificate in Legislative Drafting, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka in conjunction with the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation (CFTC) (1983); Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies, Haggai Leadership Institute, Singapore (1998); Certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Skills, National Judicial College, University of Nevada, Reno, USA (1997).

Previous Judicial and Legal Positions

Judge of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) (2005-2011); Presiding Judge of Trial Chamber II of the SCSL (2007-2008, 2010-2011), handling several high profile war crime trials including the Prosecutor v. Charles Ghankay Taylor; Judge of the High Court of Uganda with original and appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases (1996-2011); Chairperson, Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in the Uganda Police Force (1999-2000); Chairperson, Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Mismanagement in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (2001).

She was also Chairperson of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) (2002); Chairperson of the Technology Planning Committee of the Uganda Judiciary (1998-2002); Legislative Consultant seconded by the Commonwealth Secretariat to the Republic of Namibia responsible for amendment and replacement of the country’s apartheid laws and training of Namibian legislative drafters (1991-1996);

Sebutinde also served as the Principal State Attorney and Principal Parliamentary Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Uganda (1978-1990) and Legislative Consultant on the multilateral committees responsible for drafting and amendment of the treaties establishing the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD) (1980-1990); Member of the Uganda Bar and Advocate of the Courts of Judicature of Uganda since 1979.

Previous Academic Positions
Trainer and resource person on the International Civilian Peace keeping and Peace building Training Programme (IPT) of the Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Stadtschlaining, Austria (2008-2011); Member of Advisory Board of the Research Centre on International Criminal Law and Justice, University of Copenhagen (2011); Lecturer/trainer at the International Law Institute of Uganda (ILI) under the auspices of the State University of New York (SUNY) (1997-2004); Trainer and resource person for the Jurisprudence of Equality Programme for East Africa in conjunction with the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), responsible for training of East African judges, magistrates and paralegals in the implementation of regional and international human rights instruments (1997-2004); Trainer and resource person at the Post-Graduate Bar Course, Law Development Centre of Uganda (1980-1990).

Other Positions/Honours
Chancellor of the International Health Sciences University (IHSU), Uganda (2008-2011); Member, Commonwealth Association of Legislative Drafters (1980-2011); Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) (1996-2011); Member, National Association of Women Judges Uganda (NAWJU) (1996-2011); Member, International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ) (1996-2011); Member, Advocates International (AI) (1980-2011).

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She represented Uganda Women at the opening of the United Nations Decade for Women in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1975); Chairperson, Board of Directors of the Acid Survivors Foundation Uganda (2000-2004); Recipient of the “Good Samaritan Award” at the Congress of Advocates International (2004); the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Uganda British Alumni Association (UBAA) (2006).

Seninde also holds a Special Award from the Uganda Law Society given to her in recognition of the “courageous and exemplary contribution to the promotion of justice in Uganda” (2001); Honouree of the American Biographical Institute in their seventh edition of “Who’s Who of the Professionals 2000”; Named one of “Top 100 Africans of the Year” in the Africa Almanac 2000.

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