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Israel accused of genocide before the ICJ | Middle East, the eternal conflict

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Palestinians gather around a statue of Nelson Mandela to celebrate the filing of South Africa's application against Israel before the Court International Court of Justice, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on January 10, 2024.

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Today begins before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, preliminary hearings on South Africa's request to immediately suspend Israel's military actions in the Strip. Gaza.

South Africa accused Israel in late December of failing to fulfill its obligations under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Both countries are parties to the Convention, making them obliges not to commit genocide, to prevent it and to suppress it.

In an 84-page request, South Africa urges judges to urgently order Israel to immediately suspend its military operations in the Gaza Strip.

Pretoria believes that Israel has engaged, is engaged in and risks continuing to engage in acts of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Its acts and omissions are accompanied by the required specific intent […] to destroy the Palestinians of Gaza as part of the larger national, racial and ethnic group of Palestinians, she writes.

Middle East, the eternal conflict

Consult the complete file

Middle East, the eternal conflict

Consult the complete file


The petition also mentions that Israel has failed to provide essential food, water, medicine, fuel, shelter and other types of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. It also notes that the sustained bombing campaign has destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, forced the evacuation of 1.9 million Palestinians and killed more than 23,000 people, according to Gaza health authorities. p>

A delegation led by South Africa's Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola, is traveling to The Hague to support the initiative.

We are determined to see an end to the genocide currently taking place in Gaza.

A quote from Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice of South Africa

Several countries have signaled their support for the South African request, including Indonesia, Turkey, Bolivia, Jordan and Malaysia.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The Palestinian representative to Canada and the high commissioner of South Africa publicly called on the Canadian government to support the approach. Ottawa has not yet expressed a position on this matter.

Israel categorically denies the allegation of genocide.

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“No, South Africa, it is not us who came to perpetrate genocide, it is Hamas,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said the State of Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice to dispel the absurd blood libel. South Africa is providing political and legal cover for Hamas attacks and is thus criminally complicit in Hamas' campaign of genocide against our people, said Eylon Levy.

History will judge South Africa for having encouraged the modern heirs of the Nazis.

A quote from Eylon Levy, Israeli government spokesperson

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas after its attack on Israeli soil on October 7, which left around 1,140 people dead. Some 240 people were also kidnapped. Israel insists it respects international law and focuses its military actions exclusively against Hamas . He maintains that he does not target residents of Gaza. He affirmed that he was taking measures to mitigate the damage caused to civilians and to allow humanitarian aid to enter the territory.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also rejected the South African position, arguing that these were baseless allegations and asserting that these diverted attention from efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

This is particularly galling given that those attacking Israel – Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and their defender, Iran – continue to call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews, he said.

After listening to arguments from both sides, on Thursday and Friday, the judges will decide whether there are plausible reasons to believe that there is a risk of genocide, as South Africa argues.

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ), in The Hague (File photo)

If necessary, they could order precautionary measures, that is to say emergency measures likely to order an end to hostilities.

But we could also imagine other measures, for example, the obligation of the Israeli judicial authorities to initiate proceedings against those who make comments considered as incitement to genocide, or to ensure the prosecution of those who make comments considered as incitement to genocide, or to ensure the prosecution of those who make comments considered as incitement to genocide, or to ensure the prosecution of those who make comments considered as incitement to genocide, or to ensure the prosecution of those who make comments considered to incite genocide. humanitarian access or access to international investigators, including from the International Criminal Court, to the Gaza Strip, explains lawyer and international justice expert Johann Soufi, who however doubts that the Court will engage in This path.

It is very possible that the judges will render a verdict favorable to South Africa, believes Johann Soufi, who worked with the x27;UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza.

From the moment there are plausible reasons to believe that a genocide is in progress or that there is a serious risk that a genocide will take place, judges must order precautionary measures, he notes. However, this is only a temporary measure, he specifies, while waiting to examine the merits of the case.

On the violation of the Convention, that is to say on the merits of the South African request, we are no longer on this standard of proof of plausible reasons, we are on the finding of ;a violation.

A quote from Johann Soufi, lawyer and expert in international justice

To render a favorable judgment, the bar will be much higher high, since it will be necessary to prove genocidal intent.

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Protest in support of the Palestinian people in Valencia, Spain, November 19, 2023.

It's not just about killing huge numbers of people. There must be an intention to destroy a group of people (classified by race or religion, for example) in whole or in part, in a particular location, Juliette McIntyre, an international law expert at the University of South Australia.

South Africa will struggle to cross the threshold of proof of genocide, said Ms. McIntyre.

Although Israeli leaders in public statements reject the accusations as completely unfounded, Israel takes the matter very seriously. The proof: he sends high-level experts to defend himself, including British lawyer Malcolm Shaw and Aharon Barak, former president of the Supreme Court and Holocaust survivor.

ICJ decisions are final and legally binding. However, the Court has no power to enforce them. It is therefore unlikely that Israel would put an end to its military operations, if the Court's judgment were to order it to do so.

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Young Palestinians watch the destruction caused by Israeli strikes in the southern Gaza Strip, in Rafah.

Beyond the symbolism, however, an unfavorable opinion towards Israel would have political consequences, believes Mr. Soufi. If the International Court of Justice were to recognize that we are perhaps in the beginnings of a genocide, it would change in a fairly fundamental way the Canadian position and certain European countries, which would be obliged to distance themselves from Israeli military operations. that they have supported until now.

The ICJ has never found a country responsible for genocide. In 2007, it ruled that Serbia had violated its obligation to prevent genocide during the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces.

The judgment is expected to be handed down within a few weeks. The decision on the merits, on the other hand, will probably not be rendered for several years.

The International Court of Justice, which rules on disputes between States , is different from the International Criminal Court, which prosecutes war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by individuals. Five countries, including South Africa, requested an ICC investigation into the Gaza conflict in November.

With information from Agence France-Presse, Associated Press and Reuters

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