American ICJ judge who voted against Israel was nominated by Biden for top State Department role

The ICJ issued a ruling demanding that Israel halt its military operations against the Hamas terrorist group in Rafah.

By Corey Walker, The Algemeiner

One of the judges on the top United Nations court who voted on Friday to end Israel’s military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah was previously nominated by US President Joe Biden to serve as a senior State Department official.

In Aug. 2021, Biden announced his intent to nominate Sarah Cleveland, an American, to serve as the legal adviser for the State Department in his administration. The nomination was ultimately unsuccessful, as she was not voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Two years later in November 2023, Cleveland, a former member of the UN Human Rights Committee, won election to sit on the bench of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken responded to Cleveland’s election by showering her with fawning praise. He expressed approval of Cleveland’s “vision for an ICJ that is judicially independent, preserves the integrity and authority of the court, and ensures the dignity of all people.”

The ICJ fills five seats during each general election cycle. Judges are nominated by a group of international law experts appointed by their country’s government. The United Nations General Assembly and Security Council member countries vote separately and secretly to pick the judges who will sit on the bench.

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In an interview with Columbia Law School, Cleveland shared that her successful election could be attributed in part to her willingness to vote against American interests.

“Fundamentally, what the rest of the world wanted to see was that the US candidate to the court was independent from the US government, was interested in their individual countries, and understood their perspective,” Cleveland said. “They did not want a judge from a permanent member of the Security Council who would predictably vote for her own country’s interests.”

To win support from countries in the United Nations, Cleveland touted her history of standing against the US government’s positions on controversial issues.

“I have a long record of independence from the US government, since my very first case — as a student in a human rights clinic at Yale Law School — which was a lawsuit against the US government on behalf of Haitian refugees detained at Guantanamo,” she said.

On Friday, the ICJ issued a ruling demanding that Israel halt its military operations against the Hamas terrorist group in Rafah and allow for significantly more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Critics of the court have accused the ICJ, along with other major international organizations, of harboring substantial and unfair bias against Israel.

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The order was adopted by the panel of 15 judges from around the world in a 13-2 vote, opposed by judges from Uganda and Israel itself.

If carried out, the ICJ ruling would effectively end Israel’s campaign to dismantle Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that launched the war in Gaza by invading southern Israel on Oct. 7, murdering 1,200 people, and kidnapping over 250 others as hostages.

However, Israeli officials have indicated the Jewish state will not comply with the ruling of the court, which has no enforcement powers.