D-Day in SA V Israel genocide ICJ case

The ICJ is expected to deliver its decision. South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel on the grounds that its attacks on Gaza violate the Genocide Convention.Picture: AFP

The ICJ is expected to deliver its decision. South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel on the grounds that its attacks on Gaza violate the Genocide Convention.Picture: AFP

Published Jan 26, 2024


Irrespective of Friday’s outcome in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), South Africa’s case of genocide against Israel will be a balance of forces, challenging existing norms of international foreign policy when it comes to how Western powers have imposed and exerted themselves under the banner of being just.

As the ICJ is expected to deliver its decision, authorities in the Gaza Strip said Israeli forces had killed 20 people waiting for humanitarian aid to be distributed, as Israel pressed its blistering assault on the territory on Thursday. The attack occurred on the outskirts of Gaza City, in the north of the territory, with 150 people also wounded. The Israeli army did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel on the grounds that its attacks on Gaza violate the Genocide Convention.

“South Africa is requesting that the ICJ grant interim injunctions, including that Israel immediately cease its military operations in Gaza, take reasonable measures to prevent the genocide of Palestinians, ensure that the displaced return to their homes and have access to humanitarian assistance, including adequate food, water, fuel, medical and hygiene supplies, shelter and clothing, take necessary steps to punish those involved in the genocide and preserve the evidence of genocide,” said Dirco.

The ICJ said in a statement, owing to the considerable interest in the case and the limited number of seats available in the Great Hall of Justice, “only one seat will be allocated per embassy”.

While only 15 seats will be available in the public gallery for members of the public on a first-come first-served basis.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Dr Naledi Pandor is expected to be in attendance, representing South Africa in The Hague, Netherlands.

“The SA case is overwhelming in terms of meeting all statutory elements of a genocide. Where we are now is an imminent threat to the people of Gaza.

Israel is doing everything it can to make sure Gaza is not habitable, laid to waste accompanied by deliberate intent. People think genocide is made by the number of people killed. It's not as simple as that; it's genocide with intent. Intent to destroy in part or whole a national, religious, or ethnic group. The case is going to go political; the question is which way politically.

It's not only going to be decided on law; it's a question of the balance of forces. it will not only be the brief from the Western imperialism that judges will have to consider,” said Unisa Lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence, Mametlwe Sebei.

The hot breath of mass indignation and opposition to the genocide, sharply expressed in the breath-taking scale of the international mass mobilisations for Palestine will also have to be factored by court, if it is to retain any modicum of credibility in the global public opinion, he said.

Wits international relations professor John Stremlau said he anticipated a careful acceptance of most of the provincial requests that South Africa had made, except for a suspension of hostilities.

“This would strengthen Biden’s hand for pushing forward for greater assistance to civilians, more (military) restraint. If the court finds in South Africa’s favour, everything including the call for cessation of military operations then Biden will be in a tricky situation, then I think Biden would be in a bind and will disregard it. it. I don't think the court would ever say they don't have jurisdiction or no to all provisional means.

“They will take the case on but decide later.”

Human rights activist, Tauriq Jenkins said that it was “judgement day for all of us including the judges”.

“The case opens up the pandora’s box of a global resurgence of restorative justice from the global south against colonialism in all aspects present and historical.

“What our legal team has done, who we proudly call our barristers of ubuntu, have placed in the centre a reminder of what it is to be human in an environment that dehumanises the atrocities inflicted on indigenous and black bodies.

“Irrespective of the outcome, the process and what they have achieved in the dignified manner in which they did is a victory to all of us.”

He added that if the outcome was favourable for South Africa, and Israel chose to ignore it, Israel “loses its own premise of self-defence.

“In other words it then becomes a total pariah within the context of global international law”.

Meanwhile British arms export licences to Israel are also under growing scrutiny in light of South Africa’s case.

The contentious issue surfaced on Wednesday when an opposition Labour lawmaker accused Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of having “the blood of thousands of innocent people on his hands”.

Protesters this week confronted delegates outside a London defence industry conference.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who is visiting the Middle East, has been criticised for a lack of transparency over his role in helping the sales.

In London, a coalition of legal advocacy groups is asking the High Court to expedite a judicial review of the UK government’s decision to keep selling military parts and arms to Israel.

Britain’s strategic licensing criteria states that weapons should not be exported when there is a clear risk they could be used in international humanitarian law violations.

Cape Times