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Opinion | Julia Sebutinde — the ICJ judge whose dissenting opinion further condemned Gazans

Uganda’s Judge, Julia Sebuntinde, was the only judge who voted against all the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza, in Israel’s case. Her opinion drew anger from many across the world.

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Julia Sebutinde at the Jessup Moot final 2013. CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

In 1966, a ghost was born in the High Court of Uganda. 

This wicked creature has haunted the hallways, chambers, and registries of the country’s Judiciary for nearly sixty years.

Many lawyers, judges, activists, government officials, journalists, scholars, politicians, royals, and presidents have faced its wrath and vengeance for trying to kill it. 

It is so powerful that churches, mosques, and shrines have shied away from doing anything to send it back to hell.


As with most ghouls, few people have ever seen it. Some sightings, sounds, and strange incidents have been reported in the dark basement parking lots, the deserted courtyard, and the library, but witnesses say they were too frightened by its appearance that they did not have the presence of mind to pull out their phones and take a picture or record the formless countenance of the marauding spirit. 

Its dark, flowing robes make it difficult to tell it apart from lawyers and judges, both of whom dress in similar fashion.

However, its fingerprints and handwriting can be found in rulings and judgments made by the Ugandan bench. The Political Question Doctrine (PQD) is one of its most common symptoms: here, judges shy away from resolving an issue because it is “political” and should be addressed by either Parliament or the Executive. It is a dishonest, but effective way of avoiding responsibility or exercising judicial mandate.

Last week, the spirit flew North, crossed the Sahel, swam through the Mediterranean, leaped across Southern Europe and did not stop until it found its way to the premises of the International Court of Justice. It was tired of playing in the minor Ugandan league, and was determined to announce its existence to the whole world.

The phantom roamed the hallowed halls of the global court and when it saw Justice Julia Sebutinde’s chamber, it knew it had found a willing host. African Christian fundamentalists like her make the best mediums for evil spirits.


All night, it lurked and waited until she came in for work on Friday morning. Her diary had just one major item to handle: a ruling on the provisional measures sought by South Africa to stop the Anglo-American genocide being conducted by Israel in the Gaza Strip. 

Julia had heard the submissions, read the mountains of evidence presented, and had been horrified by the images and footage of the carnage coming out of the Strip. 

But the spirit was already in charge of her mental faculties and she didn’t care anymore for the fate of the Palestinians.

With the stroke of her Parker pen, Julia condemned the two million Gazans to even more death at the hands of Israel’s air, land, and sea onslaught. 

She wrote thus: 


“In my respectful dissenting opinion the dispute between the State of Israel and the people of Palestine is essentially and historically a political one, calling for a diplomatic or negotiated settlement, and for the implementation in good faith of all relevant Security Council resolutions by all parties concerned, with a view to finding a permanent solution whereby the Israeli and Palestinian peoples can peacefully coexist.

 It is not a legal dispute susceptible of judicial settlement by the Court. 

 Some of the preconditions for the indication of provisional measures have

not been met.

 South Africa has not demonstrated, even on a prima facie basis, that the acts allegedly committed by Israel and of which the Applicant complains, were committed with the necessary genocidal intent, and that as a result, they are capable of falling within the scope of the Genocide Convention.


 Similarly, since the acts allegedly committed by Israel were not accompanied by a genocidal intent, the Applicant has not demonstrated that the rights it asserts and for which it seeks protection through the indication of provisional measures are plausible under the Genocide Convention. 

 The provisional measures indicated by the Court in this Order are not warranted.”

The ghost of ex parte Matovu had made so grand an entrance that one of the Israeli lawyers was agape and aghast at how far it could possess and use its willing hosts.

Later that night as Justice Julia was being chauffeured home in the light January snowfall, the only sound in the pampered cabin was the pattering of snowflakes and the quiet growl of the S550 Maybach’s V12 engine.

Her phone vibrated too many times. She checked and saw an unusual number of notifications on her social media accounts. Her name was trending. 


The world was furious and was condemning her in every language, dialect, and tongue. By this time, the ghost had long left her, and for the first time since making that dissenting opinion, she felt scared.

For comfort and solace, she dialed Robert Kayanja, her pastor’s phone number. The man’a Gad was having dinner with a visiting Nigerian televangelist. He left the table, saying “it’s Dr. Sebutinde, please excuse me for a minute…”

“Mukama yebazibwe, my sister in Christ!”*Praise the Lord, my sister in Christ 

“Thank you for standing with the Children of God,” the pastor continued, and then realised, from Julia’s tone, that she wasn’t in any mood for celebration or small talk.

She was sniffling and quietly sobbing in the back of the luxury sedan, trying to keep her driver from hearing her cry. “Amen Pastor, but people are abusing me everywhere, saying I took sides with Israel which is committing a genocide in Gaza!”


Pastor Kayanja boomed: “No weapon forged against you, my sister, shall prevail, and any tongue that rises against you shall be condemned by the Lord Himself!”

His assured words gave her a measure of strength, but not enough to overcome the fear. She pushed a button on the arm level console and requested the driver to stop by the winery for a cask of the hard stuff. She would drown herself in it, and by morning even though her head would be pounding with a massive headache from the resulting hangover, her guilt and sorrows would long be gone.

As Julia alighted from the limousine at her residence, she wanted to scream and vent, but held her tongue and mumbled to herself: 

“Fuck them; what can they do to me? Jesus is my shield and protector!”


This article originally appeared on the writer’s social media page and it is republished here with the permission of the writer. No changes were made to the original article.

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