ICJ Judge Criticizes Gaza War Ruling and Shabbos Scheduling in Dissenting Opinion

By Yoni Weiss

Police stand outside the International Court of Justice prior to a hearing in The Hague, Netherlands. (AP Photo/Patrick Post)

In a scathing dissent, a United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ) judge urged the court not to micromanage the war in Gaza and chided her colleagues for requiring Israel to work on Shabbos while responding to a case brought by South Africa under the Genocide Convention.

ICJ Vice President Julia Sebutinde issued a lengthy nine-page dissenting opinion, challenging the court’s ruling that called for Israel to cease its military offensive in the city of Rafah. This ruling stems from South Africa’s request, which accuses Israel of genocide in its ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Israel has vehemently denied these charges.

In her dissent, Sebutinde, who is Ugandan, objected to the court’s handling of South Africa’s request and the “incidental oral hearings.” She stated, “In my view, the court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel.” Sebutinde noted that Israel’s preferred counsel was unavailable on the dates scheduled by the court.

Furthermore, she expressed regret that “Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the court over the Jewish Shabbat.” She emphasized, “The court’s decision in this respect bears upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the court.”

Sebutinde also argued that the court’s initial ruling “does not entirely prohibit the Israeli military from operating in Rafah.” She urged the court to “avoid reacting to every shift in the conflict and refrain from micromanaging the hostilities in the Gaza Strip, including Rafah” to maintain its judicial integrity.

Clarifying the ruling’s scope, Sebutinde stated that it “partially restrict[s] Israel’s offensive in Rafah to the extent it implicates rights under the Genocide Convention.” However, she warned that the ruling is “susceptible to ambiguity and could be misunderstood or misconstrued as ordering an indefinite, unilateral ceasefire, thereby exemplifying an untenable overreach on the part of the court.”

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