A Quick Guide to South Africa’s ICJ Lawsuit Against Israel | Israel’s War on Gaza News

by MMC
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As Israel defends itself against accusations of genocide, pro-Palestinian activists hope the World Court will end the war in Gaza.

The two-day public hearing in the South African genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) begins on Thursday. The South African government filed a complaint against Israel on December 29, accusing it of “genocidal acts” during its attacks on Gaza.

Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists around the world hope the ICJ can bring an end to Israel’s devastating military campaign in Gaza, which has left more than 23,000 people dead, including nearly 10,000 children.

Here is the case of the ICJ, simplified:


What is the International Court of Justice?

The ICJ, also called the World Court, is the highest legal body of the United Nations capable of adjudicating matters between member states. It is separate from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which tries individuals in criminal cases.

The ICJ comprises 15 judges appointed for nine-year terms through elections to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the Security Council (UNSC). The Court’s decisions are binding and cannot be appealed by member states, but it is up to the United Nations Security Council to enforce these decisions.

What are South Africa’s accusations against Israel?

South Africa has accused Israel of committing the crime of genocide in Gaza in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both countries are parties.

The killing of large numbers of Palestinians in Gaza, particularly children; destruction of their homes; their expulsion and displacement; blockade of food, water and medical assistance in the Gaza Strip; the imposition of measures preventing Palestinian births by destroying essential health services, crucial for the survival of pregnant women and babies, are all listed as genocidal actions in the suit.

South Africa demands that the ICJ act urgently to prevent Israel from committing further crimes in the Gaza Strip using “provisional measures” – essentially an emergency order that can be implemented even before the start of the war. main business.

It says interim measures are necessary “to protect against further serious and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention, which continue to be violated with impunity.”

What did Israel say?

Israel, which castigated South Africa for filing the complaint, vowed to defend itself in court. Senior Israeli officials, including President Isaac Herzog, have called the affair “absurd” and a “blood libel.”

Israel will likely claim it killed more than 23,000 people in Gaza in self-defense. Herzog, speaking to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday, said Israel “will proudly present our case for the use of self-defense as our most inherent right in international humanitarian law.”

How long will the trial last?

The initial procedure will likely only last a few weeks. We must therefore expect a sentence from the court, favorable or unfavorable to South Africa’s urgent request, in a few weeks.

However, the main case could take much longer – years. ICJ deliberations are a painstaking process, involving detailed written submissions followed by oral arguments and counter-arguments by the team of top legal advisers representing each state. Experts estimate that a sentence in this case could take three to four years.

How does the ICJ decide cases?

After the first proceedings this week on interim measures, then later on the main case, ICJ judges will vote to decide the sentence.

Judges should be impartial, but in the past some have voted in accordance with their country’s policies. When the judiciary voted in favor of a decision temporarily banning Russia from leaving Ukraine in March 2022, Russian and Chinese judges voted against the decision.

Several countries and organizations have supported South Africa’s approach. Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan, Bolivia, Maldives, Namibia, Pakistan, Colombia and members of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) are among them.

The European Union has remained silent, but Israel has benefited from the support of its main donor and arms supplier, the United States. State Department spokesman Matt Miller said in a statement that “allegations that Israel is committing genocide are unfounded,” but added that Israel must “prevent civilian harm” and investigate allegations of humanitarian crimes.

A Palestinian sits near the rubble of a house destroyed in an Israeli strike in Rafah, January 9, 2024. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

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