Nawaf Salam…the second Arab to become the head of the International Court of Justice

A Lebanese judge, diplomat and academic, born 1953. He served as Lebanon's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations for 10 years and represented his country in the Security Council. In 2018, he was elected as a judge of the International Court of Justice and was elected President of this court for 3 years after the term of American Judge Joan E. Donoghue ends on February 6, 2024. The second Arab to hold this position after former Algerian Foreign Minister Mohamed Bedjaoui.

The International Court of Justice is the main judicial body of the United Nations. It began its activities in April 1946. In accordance with the provisions of international law, it is responsible for settling legal disputes arising between countries and providing advisory opinions on legal issues. It may be referred to by the organs of the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

Nawaf Salaam speaks before the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 when he represents Lebanon (Associated Press)

birth and upbringing

Nawaf Salam was born on December 15, 1953 in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. He comes from a famous political family. His father, Abdallah Salaam, is one of the founders of Lebanon's national airline, Middle East Airlines, and represents it. The family served on its board of directors between 1956 and 1983.

His grandfather is Salim Ali Salam, who was mayor of Beirut and deputy in the Ottoman Council of “Envoys” in Istanbul, and one of the founders of the “Reform Movement in Beirut” against Turkish policy in the East. He was also a member of the Great Arab Government established by King Faisal bin Hussein and director of its office in Beirut.

His uncle is Saeb Salam, who is known for his struggle against French colonialism. He led the Lebanese government 4 times between 1952 and 1973, and his cousin Tammam Salam led the government in the period between 2014 and 2016.

Nawaf Salaam is married to Sahar Bassiri, a journalist and Lebanese ambassador to UNESCO, and has two sons, Abdallah and Marwan.

study and training

He began his academic career by obtaining a diploma from the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 1974, then obtained a doctorate in history from the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1979.

He then earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Beirut in 1984, a Master of Laws degree from Harvard Law School in 1991, and a Doctorate in Political Science from the Institute of Political Studies in Paris in 1992.

Nawaf Salaam is known for his struggle in support of the Palestinian cause since he was a student at a (European) university.

professional experience

Nawaf began his professional career in the field of law in 1984 as an appellate lawyer, member of the Beirut Bar Association and advisor and representative to several international, local, public and private bodies in Beirut for two periods (1984–1989). and (1992–2007). He also served as a legal representative for several international institutions in the American city of Boston. In the period between (1989-1992).

Previously, he began his career path in academia, working as a lecturer at the Sorbonne University from 1979 to 1981, where he studied the contemporary history of the Middle East. In 1981, he was a visiting fellow at Weatherhead. Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, and between 1985 and 1989. He worked as a lecturer at the American University of Beirut.

After returning to Beirut in 1992, he worked as a lawyer at the Takla Law Firm, and in parallel with his law practice, he began teaching International Law and International Relations at the American University of Beirut and became chair of the Department of Political Studies and Public Administration. Led. The same university in the period 2005–2007.

He worked as a lecturer at several universities, including Harvard Law School, the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, the International Peace Institute in New York, Yale Law School, the German University of Freiburg and Boston University, and in the Arab World. Universities in Rabat, Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

Work and Jobs in Lebanon

He was elected a member of the Executive Office of the Economic and Social Council in Lebanon between 1999 and 2002. The mission of this council was to provide advice, suggestions and recommendations in projects of economic and social nature received from the government.

In 2005, the Lebanese Council of Ministers appointed him as a member and envoy to the National Commission for Electoral Law Reform, where he contributed to drafting a new electoral law after Syria ended its military presence in Lebanon.

Lebanon's Ambassador to the United Nations, Nawaf Salam, acknowledged that as head of the Security Council, he has to receive an appeal from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the State of Palestine to become a full member of the United Nations, in addition to the 66th UN General Assembly. A formal request was received.  Nation Headquarters in New York, September 23, 2011.  AFP Photo/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo by Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
Nawaf Salaam in 2011 when he was President of the United Nations Security Council (French)

This body – known as the Boutros Committee after its head, the late Minister Fuad Boutros – presented a proposed law in 2006 that included a number of reforms, the most prominent of which was the adoption of a mixed electoral system that would allow 77 Elects representatives. According to majority system and 51 according to proportional system.

Following the Beirut port explosion disaster, as a neutral and technocratic candidate and given his extensive diplomatic, legal and international record, his name was circulated in the political arena to lead the Lebanese government in 2020, but Hezbollah and Amal Andolan had objected to this. He was named, and considered, “the candidate of the United States and France.”

Palestinian cause

In an interview with the BBC in 2020, he said that he fought for Palestinian interests during his university studies, and that the shock of 1967 had an impact on his personality, like that of people of his generation. He said that during his presidency of the Security Council in May 2010, he cried when he received the file. Palestine presented its membership in the United Nations General Assembly.

Israeli media considered his election as head of the International Court of Justice a source of concern given his stated positions in support of the Palestinian cause.

The Jerusalem Post wrote that Nawaf Salaam has a history of making anti-Israel statements, and listed several of his statements, such as when he wrote on social media in 2015, “Happy birthday to you, 48 years of occupation.”

He also wrote that “characterizing critics of Israel's policies as anti-Semites is an attempt to intimidate and discredit them, which we reject,” and called for Palestine's membership in the United Nations, which would mean There will be recognition of the Palestinian state.

Cover of the book Lebanon Between Yesterday and Tomorrow
Nawaf Salam's book “Lebanon Between Yesterday and Tomorrow” was published in 2021 (Al Jazeera).

diplomatic responsibilities

  • Lebanon's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and its representative to the Security Council between 2007 and 2017.
  • President of the Security Council between May 2010 and September 2011.
  • Vice-President of the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly from September 2012 to September 2013.
  • Lebanon's representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council in 2016 and 2018.
  • In 2018, he joined the International Court of Justice, which consists of 15 judges elected by security forces and the United Nations General Assembly.
  • He was a member of Security Council field missions to several countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Afghanistan.

He led Lebanese delegations to several international events, notably:

  • Non-Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting in Havana (2009).
  • International Conference on Financing for Development, Addis Ababa (2015).
  • Paris Climate Summit (2015).
  • High Level Meeting on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Dhaka (2015).

Medals and Awards

  • In recognition of his “diplomatic skills” in leading the work of the Lebanese Mission to the United Nations during Lebanon's membership of the Security Council, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor in the rank of Officer by then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012 .
  • The branches of the Lebanese Cultural University in New York and New Jersey honored him with the Diaspora Statue in 2016.
Lebanon in the Security Council book cover
The book “Lebanon in the Security Council (2010–2011)” was published in 2013 (Al Jazeera)

most important publications

He has numerous books and articles to his credit on issues related to international and constitutional law, politics and history, as well as international organizations and affairs. In between:

  • “Potential Reforms and Desired Reforms, Research and Articles on the Lebanese Crisis,” University Institute for Studies and Publishing, 1989.
  • “Beyond Taif, Essays on the State and Reform,” 1998.
  • “The Lebanese Case: Sect, Citizen, State and Citizenship in an Islamic Country,” 1998.
  • “Civil Society in the Arab World: Historical and Political Dimensions” at Harvard Law School's Islamic Legal Studies Program in 2002.
  • “Taif Agreement, Cash Recovery” in 2003.
  • A joint book “Options for Lebanon”, published in 2004.
  • “Lebanon in the Security Council 2010-2011” in 2013.
  • In 2021 it was titled “Lebanon Between Yesterday and Tomorrow”, and was released in two versions in Arabic and French.
  • “Civil Society in the Arab World: Historical and Political Dimensions” at Harvard Law School's Islamic Legal Studies Program in 2002.

From doctoral thesis:

  • “Conflict and Political Perceptions in Contemporary Lebanon” at the Paris Institute for Political Studies in 1991.
  • “The 1958 Uprising in Lebanon” at the Sorbonne University in Paris in 1979.

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