Trevor Norwitz

Open Letter and Invitation to ICJ Judge Sebutinde

Judge Julia Sebutinde
International Court of Justice
Peace Palace
The Hague
The Netherlands

An Open Letter and an Open Invitation

Dear Judge Sebutinde:

I am writing to you as a fellow lawyer and as a member of the Jewish faith, but mostly as a human being, to thank you for your courage and wisdom, and to say that you restore my faith in humanity, and in the law.

I know that you are paying a very high personal price now for your integrity in seeking to maintain the legitimacy of the International Court of Justice and of the Genocide Convention in the face of what is clearly an attempt to cynically manipulate them both for political purposes.  Ironically, the very fact that your own country went out of its way to publicly distance itself from your dissenting opinion illustrates the political pressure that judges on this court are under, undermining any suggestion that it is a purely judicial body above the reach of politics.

I have published elsewhere my analysis as to why the majority opinion was legally and morally flawed.  The majority judges may have adopted a “what’s the harm?” approach in imposing their redundant “preliminary measures.”   As you noted, however, because the conditions for the preliminary measures were not present – Israel does not have genocidal intent and South Africa did not and could not show even on a prima facie basis that they do – the measures should not have been ordered and the case should have been dismissed.

The “harm” – as was inevitable and entirely predictable – is how the majority opinion is now being mischaracterized throughout the world to spread the horrific blood libel that Israel is or even may be perpetrating a genocide in Gaza.   The “harm” is the veritable orgy of anti-Semitism that has been unleashed in its wake.  The “harm” is the loss of legitimacy of the International Court of Justice, which has shown itself willing and able to be manipulated for political purposes.  The “harm” is the degradation of the crime of genocide, which was proscribed after the Holocaust to be the most monstrous crime imaginable, and now applies to self-defence that some consider (or wish to portray as) excessive.

I wish you ongoing courage and strength as you face the onslaught from those who are either ignorant or misinformed, or who hate Israel and the Jewish people enough to be willing to weaken the institutions of international law to score cheap points against them.  You should know that you have many admirers, who are grateful for your willingness to stand up for what you know is right even if that means standing alone.

I would like to invite you to visit New York at any time of your choosing, where there are many lawyers at the top law firms and many students at the best universities in America, as well as many others, who would dearly like to hear from you and to thank you for your courage and integrity.

Trevor Norwitz
New York

About the Author
Trevor Norwitz is a practicing lawyer in New York, who also teaches at Columbia Law School.