ICJ set to hear SA’s case against Israel: What to expect in the coming days

This general view shows President of The International Court of Justice. Picture: Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP

This general view shows President of The International Court of Justice. Picture: Remko de Waal / ANP / AFP

Published Jan 11, 2024


The global community waits in anticipation as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hearings are set to start on Thursday morning.

South Africa launched a case last month at the ICJ against Israel for what it said were "genocidal" acts in Gaza.

The ICJ application related to alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Genocide Convention, and said that "Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza."

It is worth noting that these are the hearings and not the final judgment.

What can we expect from today and tomorrow?

Both sides’ legal teams will have the same time to make their case with South Africa going first on Thursday and then Israel responding on Friday. Judgment will be reserved until a later date, but could come within weeks.

It is worth noting that the ICJ's rulings are final and without appeal, but it has no way of enforcing them. A ruling against Israel could set a legal precedent.

According to the filing, there are several provincial measures that South Africa is requesting:

– Immediate Suspension of Military Operations:

The State of Israel must immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.

– Control Over Armed Units

Israel should ensure that military or irregular armed units, organisations, and persons under its control take no steps in furtherance of the military operations in Gaza.

– Prevention of Genocide

Both South Africa and Israel, in line with their obligations under the Genocide Convention, must take reasonable measures to prevent genocide against the Palestinian people.

– Prohibition of Genocidal Acts

Israel is obligated to desist from acts within the scope of the Genocide Convention, including killing, causing bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions of life for physical destruction, and imposing measures to prevent births within the Palestinian group.

– Desistance and Preventive Measures:

Israel must desist from and prevent actions, including expulsion, forced displacement, deprivation of access to essentials, and destruction of Palestinian life in Gaza.

– Prohibition of Genocidal Acts by Military and Armed Units

Israel must ensure that its military and any units or individuals influenced by it refrain from genocidal acts, including incitement, and take steps towards punishment for any engagement in such acts.

– Preservation of Evidence

Israel is required to take effective measures to prevent the destruction of evidence related to genocide allegations and ensure access to Gaza for fact-finding missions and international bodies.

– Reporting Obligation

Israel must submit a report to the Court on the measures taken to comply with the order within one week, and regularly thereafter until a final decision is rendered.

– Avoidance of Aggravation

Israel is directed to refrain from any action that may aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court, ensuring a conducive environment for resolution.

Worldwide support

As the world awaits responses, support for South Africa’s case against Israel has mounted.

Palestinians have on Wednesday gathered at Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah, singing the national anthem ahead of the hearing.