Professor Dire Tladi, a leading international scholar whose accomplishments span various areas of legal expertise, including academia, government service, diplomacy and practice, made history recently by becoming the first South African to be appointed as a judge at the “World Court”.
Tladi will begin his nine-year term at the International Court of Justice that sits in the Hague in February 2024. Composed of 15 judges, the court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by states, and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by United Nations’ organs and specialised agencies.
Tladi was nominated for the position by John Dugard, also a professor in international law, and was endorsed by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in May. After months of fierce lobbying, Tladi’s hopes were fulfilled when he was elected to the role in November 2023. He is among three African judges who sit on the International Court of Justice.
Tladi said he is ecstatic about the opportunity ahead of him and is of the view that he was elected based on his quality and merit.
He explained his vision in a news interview, saying, “It is my intention to contribute to the pursuit of solidarity as a leitmotif of the court while insisting on doctrinal rigour as a pathway to that solidarity.”
A professor of International Law at the University of Pretoria, Tladi also serves as President of the South African Branch of the International Law Association and is an Executive Member of the International Law Association.
In addition, he has served as Chair of the International Law Commission, an organ of the UN generally regarded as a feeder body for the International Court of Justice, and was previously the legal adviser of the South African Mission in New York and Special Adviser to South African Ministers of international relations.
Speaking in a television interview, Tladi said the first case that he will have the opportunity to sit on will involve the issue of Palestine. The General Assembly has requested an advisory opinion from the court on the obligations of the state of Israel.
Another case he says he will weigh in on is one on climate change which has an advisory opinion pending from the 1970s that concerns South Africa and Namibia.
Tladi says he believes South Africa’s judicial system is world renowned. “I think people, especially constitutional experts, look at our judicial system with envy. We’ve had some rather ground breaking decisions, so at least internationally our judicial system is viewed very favourably and held in very high regard,” he commented.
He said it is important for South Africa to have a judge in the World Court as the country has contributed a lot indirectly to the jurisprudence of the court, with a number of decisions through the court relating to apartheid.
Aside from his impressive legal background, in addition to more than 50 scholarly publications, Tladi has also published two novels, Blood in the Sand of Justice, based on a fictional account of the assassination of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and a sequel titled Sins of a Father.
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