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ICJ: Israel on notice for “plausible” genocide against Palestinians

28th Jan 2024
ICJ: Israel on notice for “plausible” genocide against Palestinians

By Mahomed Faizal

London (The Musilm News): In an historic ruling, the United Nation’s apex court, the International Court of Justice, has drawn the veil from more than seven decades of Israel’s impunity by ruling on Januart 26 that South Africa’s claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza is indeed “plausible”.

The decision is part of a larger case brought to The Hague by South Africa in December, which alleged that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. The Israeli killing of Palestinians escalated after 7 October 2023, when the Hamas attacked Israel at the Zikim military base, five kilometres north of Gaza City, seizing many prisoners.

On 11-12 January, South Africa asked the ICJ to issue provisional measures that would require Israel to immediately halt its assault on Gaza. Israel in its response asked the ICJ to reject SA’s application on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because critical conditions had not been met, including that South Africa had not declared a dispute between the two states. The court rejected Israel’s request to throw the case out.

Noting the “catastrophic humanitarian situation” in the Gaza Strip, the Court also found “urgency” and “real imminent risk” that irreparable damage will be done to Palestinians before the case concludes. On this basis, the court found it necessary to order a series of provisional—or “emergency”—measures to protect the population based on South Africa’s pleadings.

In delivering the six provisional measures, the Court’s President, Joan Donoghue, said Israel must ensure “with immediate effect” that its forces not commit any genocidal acts against Gazans. These acts include the deliberate physical destruction of Gazans’, which is carried out with the intent to destroy the Gazan people. It also ordered Israel to prevent and punish incitement to genocide, to prevent destruction and preserve evidence of crimes, and to report back to the court in a month on the implementation of these measures. However, the order stops short of calling for a cease-fire.

The ICJ also ruled that to further reduce the risk of genocide, Israel must immediately allow food, water, medical aid, fuel, and other humanitarian aid into Gaza, without delay or hinderance on quantities or types of aid. The court found that Palestinians are facing a “catastrophic humanitarian situation” and Israel must restore conditions that can support life in Gaza and it must must limit its military operations to ensure that the aid can be delivered to all of Gaza. Further Israel must ensure that Gazans are not attacked while waiting for humanitarian aid.

The ICJ’s provisional measures against Israel “have binding effect and thus create international legal obligations for any party to whom the provisional measures are addressed.”

While the Court’s decision was not intended to answer the question of whether Israel is committing genocide, it held that “at least some of the acts and omissions alleged by South Africa to have been committed by Israel in Gaza appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Convention.”

According to the Court these “facts and circumstances mentioned above are sufficient to conclude that at least some of the rights claimed by South Africa and for which it is seeking protection are plausible.”

This means that the case can proceed to a decision on the merits. It also puts other states—namely, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and all other countries offering support to Israel — on genocide notice. These countries could also be held complicit in the encouragement, condonation and promotion of genocide.

The Court voted 15-2 on the measure that Israel must do all in its power to stop genocidal acts in Gaza and by 16 votes to 1, that Israel needs to to prevent and punish those involved with inciting genocide against Palestinians. By a 16-1 vote, the judges said that Israel must take “immediate and effective” measures to ensure the provision of urgently needed humanitarian aid and basic services.

South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, stated that should the ICJ find there is genocide, the states that aided Israel would be considered complicit in the commission of the crime under the Convention.

South Africa’s International Relations and Cooperation Department said in a statement that the decision “marks a decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people.”

“Third States are now on notice of the existence of a serious risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. They must, therefore, also act independently and immediately to prevent genocide by Israel and to ensure that they are not themselves in violation of the Genocide Convention, including by aiding or assisting in the commission of genocide. This necessarily imposes an obligation on all States to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions, which are plausibly genocidal’, it continued

The statement added that “South Africa will continue to act within the institutions of global governance to protect the rights, including the fundamental right to life, of Palestinians in Gaza – which continue to remain at urgent risk including from Israeli military assault, starvation and disease – and to obtain the fair and equal application of international law to all, in the interest of our collective humanity. Notably, South Africa will continue to do everything within its power to preserve the existence of the Palestinian people as a group, to end all acts of apartheid and genocide against the Palestinian people and to walk with them towards the realisation of their collective right to self-determination, for, as Nelson Mandela momentously declared, “our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.

Addressing the South African nation on Friday after the ICJ ruling, President Cyril Ramaphosa, said: “We, as South Africans, will not be passive bystanders and watch the crimes that were visited upon us being perpetrated elsewhere.”

Algeria has formally notified the United Nations Security Council of the Court’s order. President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has directed Algeria’s permanent mission to the UN to request a Security Council meeting to “give an executable form” to decisions by the ICJ.

The UNSC is schedule to meet on Wednesday, 31 January, to discuss the ICJ’s ruling.

[Photo: Injured Palestinian child at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment following Israeli attacks in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on 26 1 24.
Photojournalist: Ashraf Amra/ AA]


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