Final week, South Africa turned the primary nation to file a swimsuit in opposition to Israel on the Worldwide Courtroom of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, ramping up worldwide stress on Tel Aviv to cease the lethal and relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip that it launched on October 7, 2023, and which has killed greater than 22,000 civilians, a major variety of them kids.
Within the 84-page swimsuit which South Africa filed with the court docket on December 29, it details proof of brutality being perpetrated in Gaza and asks the Courtroom – the United Nations physique for resolving interstate disputes – to urgently declare that Israel has breached its obligations below worldwide legislation since October 7.
The transfer is the most recent in an extended listing of actions that Pretoria has taken because the begin of the conflict on Gaza, together with loudly and persistently condemning Israel’s assaults on Gaza and the West Financial institution, recalling the South African ambassador from Israel, referring the struggling of Palestinians to the Worldwide Prison Courtroom (ICC) and calling for a rare assembly of BRICS international locations to deliberate the battle. The ICC takes on instances of alleged crimes dedicated by people, not states.
Right here’s a breakdown of the ICJ case:
What are South Africa’s allegations in opposition to Israel?
South Africa has accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, in violation of the 1948 Genocide Conference which defines genocide as “acts dedicated with intent to destroy, in entire or partially, a nationwide, ethnical, racial or spiritual group”.
Genocidal actions listed within the swimsuit embrace the killing of Palestinians in Gaza in massive numbers, particularly kids; the destruction of their properties; their expulsion and displacement; in addition to imposing a blockade on meals, water and medical help to the strip.
Additionally they embrace the imposition of measures stopping Palestinian births by destroying important well being providers essential for the survival of pregnant girls and infants.
All these actions, the swimsuit reads, are “supposed to result in their [Palestinians] destruction as a bunch”.
Pretoria additional blames Israel for failing to forestall and prosecute incitement to genocide, with particular reference to statements coming from Israeli officers all through the conflict which have sought to justify the killings and destruction in Gaza.
South Africa has additionally specifically requested that the ICJ transfer urgently to forestall Israel from committing additional crimes within the strip – seemingly by issuing an order for Tel Aviv to halt its invasion. That request will probably be prioritised, the ICJ stated in a press release, however didn’t specify a timeline.
South Africa’s documentation is especially wanted amid heightened disinformation across the conflict, and for different, wide-reaching functions, stated Mai El-Sadany, a human rights lawyer and director of The Tahrir Institute for Center East Coverage.
“The proceedings are necessary in slowing the normalisation of any mass atrocities dedicated by Israel; they ship a message that if a rustic commits mass atrocities, as Israel is doing, it should count on to be introduced earlier than a world court docket, for its document to be critiqued in opposition to worldwide norms, and for its status on the worldwide stage to take a success,” she stated.
What proof has South Africa cited?
South Africa asserts that statements made by Israeli officers, together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have demonstrated “genocidal intent”.
For instance, the swimsuit cites Netanyahu’s comparison of Palestinians to the Amalek, a biblical nation that God instructed the Israelites to destroy. The biblical verse states: “Now go and smite Amalek … kill each man and girl, toddler.”
Moreover, in his December 26 assertion, Netanyahu stated that regardless of the in depth destruction of Gaza and the killing of 1000’s, “we’re deepening the combating within the coming days, and this will probably be an extended battle”.
A number of different statements, together with ones through which Israeli officers have portrayed the folks of Gaza as a drive of “darkness” and Israel as a drive of “gentle”, have additionally been cited within the swimsuit.
South Africa provides that the “scope of the Israeli army’s operations – its indiscriminate bombings and executions of civilians, in addition to Israel’s blockade of meals, water, medication, gasoline, shelter and different humanitarian help”, are proof of its claims. These actions have pushed the strip to the “brink of famine”, the swimsuit claims.
Moreover genocide, South Africa claims that Israel is committing different violations of worldwide legislation within the Gaza Strip, together with launching an assault on Palestinian tradition by attacking websites of “faith, training, artwork, science, historic monuments, hospitals and locations the place the sick and wounded are collected”.
Have related instances been filed earlier than?
Sure. Below the Genocide Conference, nation-states might file fees of genocide in opposition to different international locations whether or not or not they’re instantly concerned within the battle. In 2019, The Gambia, on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, petitioned the court docket in opposition to Myanmar over its atrocities in opposition to the Rohingya folks.
Israel and South Africa are each events to the ICJ, which means its rulings are binding on each of them. However whereas the ICJ has extra weight than the UN Safety Council the place Israel is tightly shielded by the US, the court docket lacks enforcement energy. In truth, the ICJ’s orders have been ignored in some instances with no critical penalties.
In March 2022, for instance, one month after Russia invaded Ukraine, Kyiv filed a case in opposition to Russia on the Courtroom. In that case, Ukraine additionally requested the ICJ to put down emergency measures to cease Russia’s aggression.
The court docket did certainly order Moscow to halt army operations shortly after, stating that it was “profoundly involved” by the assault on Ukraine. Nonetheless, greater than a yr later, the conflict in Europe continues.
What occurs subsequent?
South African authorities confirmed Tuesday that the ICJ has mounted a listening to for January 11-12. “Our legal professionals are presently getting ready for this,” Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for South Africa’s Division of Worldwide Relations and Cooperation, posted on X, previously Twitter.
Simply to be clear. The ICJ has scheduled a listening to of the case that #SouthAfrica has triggered. That is set down for 11-12 January 2024 on the Hague. Our legal professionals are presently getting ready for this. https://t.co/Cx1YceIYFM
— Clayson Monyela (@ClaysonMonyela) January 2, 2024
However proceedings can take time – years, even. The court docket continues to be deliberating on Gambia’s case in opposition to Myanmar from 2019, as an illustration. There have been evidential hearings in that case – the most recent one in October 2023, when the court docket requested The Gambia to reply to Myanmar’s counterarguments.
South Africa proactively requested an expedited course of in its December submission. Its name for an emergency order from the ICJ may produce pretty swift outcomes – in a matter of weeks – as occurred within the Ukraine case.
Responding to the swimsuit, Israel’s Ministry of International Affairs has vehemently denied allegations of genocide and has described Pretoria’s case as “blood libel” and a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation” of the court docket. A press release from the ministry additionally accused South Africa of being “criminally complicit” in Hamas assaults.
On Tuesday, spokesperson Eylon Levy confirmed that Tel Aviv will defend itself at The Hague hearings. “We guarantee South Africa’s leaders, historical past will choose you, and it’ll choose you with out mercy,” Levy advised reporters.
Sarang Shidore, director of the Washington-based Quincy Institute, a assume tank, stated this stance may imply that Tel Aviv is taking the criticism as a critical problem to its insurance policies in Gaza.
Whereas any rulings by the ICJ might have little bearing on the conflict itself, a ruling in favour of South Africa and the Palestinians would pile important stress on Israel’s primary backer and de facto weapons depot – the US authorities.
“The Biden Administration is more and more weak to home opponents of the conflict and worldwide fees of double requirements,” Shidore stated, alluding to the stark distinction between the US’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its place on the Gaza conflict. A ruling in opposition to Israel although, may have “implications for the standing of america”, he stated.
“My sense is that the Biden Administration and a few key European allies will strongly again Israel on the ICJ,” Shidore added. “However we will see how this assist is exactly worded.”