SA campaign to have jurist elected to top UN position in full swing

Accomplished jurist and professor of international law at the University of Pretoria (UP), Dire Tladi, is a step closer to making history after Cabinet approved his nomination to serve as a permanent judge at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Tladi, who served as a member of the UN’s International Law Commission from 2012 to last year, is competing with four other African candidates. They are vying for one of the three seats allocated to Africa when the term of one the present incumbents, Mohamed Bennouna of Morocco, comes to an end in February next year. There are five vacancies in total as the terms of four other judges end in February 2024.

The judges whose terms are coming to an end are Joan Donoghue of the US, who is the current president of the court; Kirill Gevorgian of Russiacurrently serving as the court’s vice-president; Patrick Robinson of Jamaica, Hilary Charlesworth of Australia and Bennouna.

The ICJ comprises 15 judges elected by the UN General Assembly and Security Council for a nine-year term. It plays a crucial role in settling legal disputes among nations in accordance with international law prescripts. The ICJ elections will be held in November at the UN headquarters in New York. Tladi, who has a PhD in law, has also worked in South Africa’s department of international relations and cooperation between 2006 and 2014 as the principal state law adviser and legal adviser to the South African Permanent Mission. If

Tladi’s election to the ICJ is successful, it would make him the first South African to serve as a permanent judge in the history of the 78-year-old court, and the second to have been nominated after Judge John Dugard’s unsuccessful campaign in the early 2000s. Dugard is a professor of international law and has served as an ad hoc judge at ICJ. If appointed, this will make the 48-year-old Tladi among the youngest permanent judges to be elected to the ICJ.

Clayson Monyela, head of the department of international relations and cooperation, said South Africa had also submitted its nomination for endorsement of Tladi to the African Union (AU), joining the DRC and Egypt, who have also requested the continental body’s blessing. Other African countries that have nominated candidates for the permanent judge position include Algeria and Zambia.

Monyela, however, added that even if a candidate were to be endorsed by the AU, this did not guarantee election in November. “Even if the AU endorses a candidate, you still have to have global support to be elected,” he said, adding that South Africa was hard at work running Tladi’s campaign for election.

“South Africa has a very good track record of running and being voted to be part of major multilateral institutions,” he said. “We have skilled and capable jurists who are pleased to be of service,” he said, citing the announcement this month of the appointment of advocate Thembile Joyini to serve as a judge on the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Monyela said the AU candidate committee will meet next month in Nairobi. The Mahikeng-born Tladi describes the prospect of serving as permanent judge at the ICJ as the “world cup” of his law career.

“Tennis stars dream of Wimbledon; footballers dream of the Champions League and the World Cup. For me it is the ICJ,” he said.

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