March 31, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Lawmakers Urge Sanctions on ICJ Judge With History of Anti-Israel Bias

March 31, 2024 | Flash Brief

U.S. Lawmakers Urge Sanctions on ICJ Judge With History of Anti-Israel Bias

Latest Developments

A bipartisan group of nine members of Congress on March 28 called for newly promoted International Court of Justice (ICJ) President Nawaf Salam to recuse himself from Israel-related cases or face sanctions. Two Israel-related cases are pending before the ICJ. One was generated by South Africa’s spurious allegation that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. The other results from a UN General Assembly resolution designed to elicit an ICJ advisory opinion that international law requires immediate and unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the territories that Israel conquered during the Six-Day War in 1967. The nine lawmakers’ letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated, “Judge Salam’s clear and well-documented record of bias against the Jewish state and persistent violations of the ICJ charter make it abundantly clear that he will not be a fair and neutral arbiter in these cases.”

Expert Analysis

“South Africa’s submissions to the ICJ — and the ICJ’s responses — continue to undermine U.S. and allied security by creating incentives for terrorist groups to exacerbate the suffering of their own people, including by committing the war crime of hiding behind human shields and by stealing donor-provided food and other humanitarian resources from their own people. Both South Africa and the ICJ majority continue to entirely ignore Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields as well as Hamas’s theft from its own people of donor-provided food and other humanitarian resources. Instead, both South Africa and the ICJ majority have cited Palestinian suffering caused by Hamas to justify measures against Israel.” Orde Kittrie, FDD Senior Fellow

“Judge Salam’s demonstrated bias all but guarantees Israel will not receive a balanced decision from the ICJ. If the court fails to uphold its own rules by removing or recusing Salam, how can it be expected to provide Israel with a fair trial?” David May, FDD Research Manager and Senior Research Analyst

Judge Salam’s Questionable Suitability

The ICJ charter’s conflict of interest rules state that no member of the court “may participate in the decision of any case in which he has previously taken part” as an “advocate” or in “any other capacity.” Yet as Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2007 to 2017, Salam repeatedly cast votes condemning Israel’s conduct and presence in the West Bank and Gaza. Demonstrating his personal bias against Israel, in 2015, Salam posted on Twitter, “unhappy birthday to you: 48 years of occupation.”

Since joining the ICJ in 2018, Salam has twice finished in second place in elections for prime minister of Lebanon. The March letter from nine members of Congress states that “[t]his action violates the ICJ charter and ICJ ethics rules which state that ‘no member of the Court may exercise any political or administrative function, or engage in any other occupation of a professional nature.’”

ICJ Rejects Pretoria’s Request for Immediate Ceasefire

The South African government’s submission to the court on December 29, 2023, accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. The U.S. government criticized the case as “meritless.” On January 26, 2024, the ICJ rejected South Africa’s request that it demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza but ordered Israel to undertake measures the Jewish state said it is already undertaking to minimize civilian casualties.

After the court rejected South Africa’s first request for additional measures in February, Pretoria submitted another request on March 6, expressing concerns about hunger in Gaza. Israel responded on March 15 by describing the “extensive record of Israeli efforts in the humanitarian sphere to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population in general and to address the challenge of food insecurity in particular.”

On March 28, the ICJ issued an order whose most substantial new step was requiring Israel to “increas[e] the capacity and number of land crossing points” providing humanitarian assistance to Gaza. The March 28 order represented a rejection of South Africa’s demand that the court order an immediate ceasefire. However, Judge Salam, in a separate declaration, indicated his own support for imposing an immediate ceasefire.

The ICJ’s New Chief Judge Has a History of Bias Against Israel,” by Orde Kittrie

South Africa Again Attacks Israel at the International Court of Justice,” FDD Flash Brief

ICJ Rejects South Africa’s New Attack Against Israel,” FDD Flash Brief

U.S. Defends Israel at International Court of Justice,” FDD Flash Brief


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