South Africa has filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, accusing it of violating the Genocide Convention in its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.
The case, which was filed on December 29, 2023, is the first of its kind to be brought before the ICJ, and could have significant implications for the protection of Palestinian civilians and the accountability of Israeli officials.
South Africa alleges that Israel’s acts and omissions in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, since October 7, 2023, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the intent to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as part of the broader Palestinian national, ethnic, and racial group.
South Africa also alleges that Israel has failed to prevent and punish genocide, and has engaged in direct and public incitement to genocide.
South Africa seeks to invoke the jurisdiction of the ICJ on the basis of Article IX of the Genocide Convention, which allows any state party to the convention to submit a dispute to the court concerning the interpretation, application, or fulfillment of the convention.
Both South Africa and Israel are parties to the Genocide Convention, which defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
South Africa also requests the ICJ to indicate provisional measures, which are urgent and binding orders that the court can issue to preserve the rights of the parties or to prevent irreparable harm, pending the final judgment of the case.
South Africa asks the court to order Israel to immediately cease its military operations in Gaza and to comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention.
South Africa also asks the court to order Israel to refrain from destroying or tampering with any evidence related to the case, and to grant access to Gaza to fact-finding missions, international mandates, and other bodies.
South Africa argues that provisional measures are necessary to protect the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention, and to prevent further harm and suffering.
The case comes amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which has entered its third month with no sign of a lasting ceasefire.
According to Hamas officials, more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 2 million displaced by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which has also caused widespread damage to infrastructure, health facilities, and schools.
According to Israeli officials, about 1,200 Israelis have been killed and thousands injured by Hamas’ attacks, which have also targeted civilian areas and critical facilities.
The conflict has also sparked protests and violence in the West Bank, Israel, and other countries, and has raised regional and international tensions.
The case also comes amid the failure of the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire, due to the veto of the United States, which is Israel’s main ally and supporter.
The case also comes amid the reluctance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by both sides in the conflict, despite the warnings of the ICC prosecutor.
The case is expected to take several years to reach a final decision, but the ICJ is likely to hold hearings on the request for provisional measures in the coming weeks.
The case is seen as a bold and unprecedented move by South Africa, which has been a vocal advocate for the Palestinian cause and a critic of Israel’s policies and actions.
The case is also seen as a test for the role and relevance of the ICJ, which is often criticized for its lack of enforcement power and its political bias.
The case is also seen as a challenge for the international community, which has been unable to end the conflict and to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The case is also seen as a hope for the Palestinian people, who have been suffering from the occupation, the blockade, and the war, and who have been denied their rights to self-determination, freedom, and dignity.