By MENCHANI TILENDO
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday delivered its ruling on South Africa’s case against Israel, ordering for the attacks to stop and “prevent acts of Genocide in Gaza.”
The South African government filed the case on Dec. 29, 2023 and filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel about its violations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, concerning the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It argued that provisional measures should be ordered to “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people, which continue to be violated with impunity”.
Since Oct. 7, 2023, Israel’s war of aggression and indiscriminate bombings killed at least 26,000 people, wounded over 64,000 others and sparked atrocious mass displacements of civilians according to Gaza officials.
This does not include thousands more who have been missing and mostly presumed dead. This has also deprived them of sufficient humanitarian aid.
The public sitting, which took place at the Peace Palace in The Hague, was attended by 16 out of the 17-judge panel. By an overwhelming majority, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations acceded to the South African request for provisional measures to guarantee that Israel is preventing acts of genocide in Gaza.
These measures include the halting of Israel’s attacks and incitement against Palestinians, ensuring humanitarian aid, preserving evidence of genocide, submitting a response to the court within 1 month, ensuring that all parties are bound by international humanitarian law, and calling for the release of hostages by Hamas in Gaza.
However, the court did not order Israel to cease its military operations in Gaza, like what was requested by South Africa, and it also did not order Israel to return civilians to Northern Gaza. The judges also have not ruled on the merits of the genocide allegations, which they said, may take years to decide.
“We firmly believe that following the ICJ judgement there should be more concerted efforts on a ceasefire. South Africans will not be passive bystanders while crimes are perpetrated upon other people elsewhere,” said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Meanwhile, Israel said the decision was a “vile attempt” at denying them their right to defend themselves.
Court president Joan E. Donoghue said Friday at The Hague, Netherlands that it would not accept Israel’s request to dismiss the case as there were plausible claims of possible genocidal acts.
“Israel must take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of the Genocide Convention. Israel must do everything it can to ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of genocide”, Donoghue added.
Ongoing calls from social movements and global campaigners for Palestine
The ICJ decision, for its part, was welcomed by many human rights groups, social movements and global campaigners for Palestine.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnès Callamard said in a statement that the decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide and protecting all victims of atrocity crimes.
“An immediate ceasefire by all parties remains essential and – although not ordered by the Court – is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering”, Callamard said.
“The ICJ decision alone cannot put an end to the atrocities and devastation Gazans are witnessing. Alarming signs of genocide in Gaza, and Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law highlight the urgent need for effective, unified pressure on Israel to stop its onslaught against Palestinians”, Callamard added.
In the Philippines, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) called on the Marcos Jr. administration to speak out on Israel’s genocidal acts, saying that the Philippine government, as a member of the UN, now has a legal and moral responsibility to call out Israel.
“This is a landmark ruling, though short of an actual ceasefire order, that places the burden on Israel and the entire world, to ensure that genocide is not committed. The ruling also places pressure on the US, UK, EU, and their allies to desist from supplying Israel with the means to commit genocide. The export of arms to Israel must stop because these weapons are being used to kill Palestinians, with more than 25,700 civilians already killed by Israeli bombs and bullets”, BAYAN President Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
“The people of the world hail the actions of South Africa, which has previously struggled against and defeated apartheid, and now stands as a beacon of solidarity for the oppressed Palestinian people fighting the apartheid and colonialist state of Israel”, Reyes said. (JJE)