What Do We Know About Joan Donoghue?

During the reading of the preliminary ruling on “emergency measures” in a lawsuit brought by South Africa accusing Israel of violating the UN Genocide Convention, the President of the International Court of Justice, Joan E. Donoghue, spoke about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and called for urgent action to protect Palestinians in Gaza. The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to limit killing and destruction in the Gaza Strip, but without demanding a ceasefire. What do we know about Joan Donoghue?

As an ICJ judge, Donoghue issued a dissenting opinion in the case of the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965, where the ICJ issued an advisory opinion in 2017 on the sovereignty dispute over the Chagos Archipelago between the United Kingdom and Mauritius in 2017, in response To the request of the United Nations General Assembly.

Joan E. Dongoghue is an American, born in New York in 1956. She graduated from the University of California and received her doctorate in law in 1981. Joan taught law at a number of law schools in the United States, and also lectured extensively on international law and in adjudicating disputes.
Donoghue played important roles in a number of her country’s institutions, including: the Ministry of the Treasury, where Joan worked as Deputy General Counsel, before moving to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2007 and 2010, where she served as Legal Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the country.

Donoghue’s name was the only nomination for this vacant position on the International Court of Justice that the Secretary-General received within the specified time. In the General Assembly, Donoghue received 159 votes out of 167 valid votes cast, with 8 abstentions. In the Security Council, she obtained all fifteen votes and was sworn in as a member of the International Court of Justice on September 13, 2010.
In 2014, Donoghue was nominated for a second term at the International Court of Justice by the US National Group for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (The Hague), and was re-elected by 156 votes in the first round of voting at the International Court.

In September 2010, Joan was elected for the first time as a judge at the International Court of Justice, becoming the third woman to be elected to the Court. She was re-elected to that membership in February 2015 before assuming the position of Presidency of the Court in February 2021. She was then re-elected by the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council for a nine-year term beginning on February 16, 2024.

The court considered that the United Kingdom’s separation of the Chagos Islands from the rest of Mauritius in 1965 – which led to the expulsion of the Chagosans when both were colonial territories – was illegal.
Donoghue was elected as the 26th Chief Justice of the Court on February 8, 2021, succeeding Abdulqawi Yusuf, for a three-year term. She is the second woman to hold the position, along with Rosalyn Higgins, and the third American, along with Steven Schwebel and Grainne Hackworth.

On 26 January 2024, Donoghue delivered an interim ruling in South Africa v. Israel on whether the Court had jurisdiction, on behalf of the International Court of Justice.