South Africa Charges Israel With Genocide In UN’s Top Court


By Lisa Vives

Acting under the Genocide Convention, South Africa has made the first challenge worldwide against Israel charging genocide. The case was submitted to the UN’s International Court of Justice.

In an 84-page application, South Africa claimed that “acts and omissions by Israel are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group,” in violation of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Israel rejected the filing “with disgust.”

South Africa has been a fierce critic of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, comparing Israel’s policies regarding Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank with South Africa’s past apartheid regime of racial segregation. Israel rejects such allegations.

The Hague-based court has been asked to issue an interim order for Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza immediately. A hearing into that request is likely in the coming days or weeks. If the case goes ahead, it will take years, but an interim order could be issued within weeks.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said South Africa’s case lacks a legal foundation and constitutes a “despicable and contemptuous exploitation” of the court.

Israel accuses South Africa

Israel also accused South Africa of cooperating with Hamas, the Palestinian militant group behind the deadly October 7 attack in southern Israel that triggered the ongoing war.

The statement also said Israel operates according to international law and focuses its military actions solely against Hamas, adding that the residents of Gaza are not an enemy. It asserted that it takes steps to minimize harm to civilians and to allow humanitarian aid to enter the territory.

Whether the case will succeed in halting the war remains to be seen. While the court’s orders are legally binding, they are not always followed. In March 2022, the court ordered Russia to halt hostilities in Ukraine, a binding legal ruling that Moscow flouted as it pressed ahead with its attacks.

South Africa’s foreign ministry cited its “grave concern with the plight of civilians caught in the present Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip due to the indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants.”

Meanwhile, Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, said South Africa’s case “provides an important opportunity for the International Court of Justice to scrutinize Israel’s actions in Gaza using the Genocide Convention of 1948.” She said South Africa is looking to the United Nations’ highest judicial body “to provide clear, definitive answers on the question of whether Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people.”

Jarrah stressed that the ICJ case “is not a criminal case against individual alleged perpetrators, and it does not involve the International Criminal Court (ICC), a separate body. But the ICJ case should also propel greater international support for impartial justice at the ICC and other credible venues.”


IDN-InDepthNews offers news analyses and viewpoints on topics that impact the world and its peoples. IDN-InDepthNews serves as the flagship of the International Press Syndicate Group

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