Mixed results for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel

 ·26 Jan 2024

Despite agreeing with many of South Africa’s arguments in its genocide case against Israel, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has not called for a ceasefire in Gaza, Palestine.

South Africa accused Israel of violating the 1948 Genocide Convention due to its military bombardment and siege of Gaza.

Although exact figures are difficult to verify, the ICJ said this bombardment has resulted in approximately 25,700 Palestinian deaths, major destruction of civilian infrastructure and 1.7 million persons being internally displaced.

This occurred following the deadly attack from Hamas on Israel on October 7 2023, which resulted in over 1,000 Israeli deaths and hundreds of hostages being taken.

As investigations into allegations of genocide can take many years, South Africa requested that the ICJ make a ruling on certain provisional measures – mainly that Israel stop its bombardment of Gaza.

In its preliminary findings, ICJ President Joan Donoghue said that South Africa had a prima facie case of genocide against Israel.

However, despite agreeing with most of South Africa’s arguments, the ICJ did not order a ceasefire; instead, it called for other humanitarian aid.

Israel was told to ensure that its forces don’t commit genocide; ensure the preservation of evidence of genocide; allow for humanitarian assistance in Gaza; and directly punish all incitement of genocide.

Professor Magnus Killander, Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria said that the ICJ is the most prominent judicial body set out in the Charter of the United Nations.

“It has general jurisdiction rather than being limited to specific areas of law, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, or regional human rights courts, such as the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” Killander said.

Although orders from the ICJ are binding on states, they are often ignored.

“This is in line with the general difficulty of enforcing international law, in particular international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” Killander added.


Read: South Africans come to save the day for themselves

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