New Telegraph

Gaza War: South Africa Takes Israel To ICJ

South Africa has taken Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the grounds that the country is contravening the Genocide Convention adopted by the United Nations (UN) in the wake of the Holocaust and stepping up diplomatic pressures to end the war in Gaza.

Unlike the International Criminal Court (ICC), established only in 2002 as part of the development of international humanitarian law since World War II, the ICJ more commonly referred to as the World Court cannot try or jail individuals for crimes under that legal regime.

Set up as part of the United Nations system in 1945 as the successor to a court founded after World War I, the World Court deals mainly with disputes between nations.

Its judgments, which typically adjudicate disputes between states over borders, are binding.

Although governments sometimes reject them, they have the effect of encouraging nations to settle their differences peacefully without going to war.

The introduction of South Africa’s 84-page founding statement in its application to the World Court makes clear in the first paragraph that it “unequivocally condemns all violations of international law by all parties, including the direct targeting of Israeli civilians and other nationals and hostage-taking by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups”.

However, it goes on to say that “No armed attack on a State’s territory no matter how serious even an attack involving atrocity crimes can… provide any possible justification for, or defence to, breaches of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (‘Genocide Convention’ or ‘Convention’), whether as a matter of law or morality.”

The application adds: “The acts and omissions by Israel complained of by South Africa are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip…

“The acts in question include killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction.

The acts are all attributable to Israel, which has failed to prevent genocide and is committing genocide in manifest violation of the Genocide Convention, and which has also violated and is continuing to violate its other fundamental obligations under the Genocide Convention, including by failing to prevent or punish the direct and public incitement to genocide by senior Israeli officials and others.”

Given the “extraordinary urgency” of the situation in Gaza, South Africa also asked the court for a quick hearing aimed at getting the court to call on Israel “immediately to halt all military attacks that constitute or give rise to violations of the Genocide Convention”.

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It said the court should “order Israel to cease killing and causing serious mental and bodily harm to Palestinian people in Gaza, to cease the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group, to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to genocide, and to rescind related policies and practices, including regarding the restriction on aid and the issuing of evacuation directives”.

Arguing that Israel is acting with “genocidal intent”, the application cites language used by Israel’s prime minister, president and defence minister.

It describes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reference to “a struggle between the children of light and the children of darkness, between humanity and the law of the jungle”, as constituting “a dehumanising theme”.

It says President Isaac Herzog has made clear that Israel is not making distinctions between militants and civilians in Gaza, quoting a statement at a press conference that “It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible.

It’s not true this rhetoric is about civilians not being aware, not involved. It’s absolutely not true. … and we will fight until we break their backbone.”

It went on to cite Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as saying that Israel was “imposing a complete siege on Gaza.

No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly”.

It also quoted Gallant as saying on separate occasions that he had “released all the restraints” and “removed every restriction” on Israeli forces.

Note: Responding to South Africa’s application, the Israeli foreign ministry issued a statement saying “Israel categorically rejects the outrageous South African blood libel and its appeal to the ICJ. South Africa’s claim lacks both a factual and a legal basis, and constitutes despicable and contemptuous exploitation of the Court.”

It added: “South Africa is cooperating with a terrorist organization that is calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.

The Hamas terrorist organization which is committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and tried to commit genocide on 7 October is responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by using them as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid from them.”

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