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South Africa presents its case against Israel at the ICJ

January 11, 2024 at 4:58 pm

The South African delegation poses for a photo after the hearing on the request for interim measures in the case filed by the Republic of South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the grounds that Israel’s actions in Gaza violate the Genocide Convention, in The Hague, the Netherlands on January 11, 2024. [Selman Aksünger – Anadolu Agency]

The two-day public hearing for South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) commenced today with Petoria saying Tel Aviv had “crossed the line” in its response to the events of 7 October.

Hearing the case is a panel of 15 permanent judges and two ad hoc judges from Israel and South Africa; former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak and South Africa’s former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, who were both sworn in at the start of proceedings.

ICJ President, Judge Joan Donoghue, presented the allegations outlined by South Africa in its application against Israel under the Genocide Convention. South Africa is seeking an immediate halt to Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, while a ruling on whether Israel’s actions in Gaza and its rhetoric surrounding events on the ground contravene the Genocide Convention may take longer to be issued.

During the hearing, lawyer representing South Africa, Adila Hassam, highlighted the dangers of genocidal acts and the enduring susceptibility to acts of genocide perpetrated by Israel. “This is a case that underscores the very essence of our shared humanity as expressed in the preamble to the Genocide Convention,” she said.

South Africa seeks justice for Gaza - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor] 

South Africa seeks justice for Gaza – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

“South Africa contends that Israel has transgressed Article 2 of the Convention by committing actions that fall within the definition of genocide. The actions show systematic patterns of conduct from which genocide can be inferred.”

Hassam said the “first genocidal act is the mass killing of Palestinians In Gaza”, while showing the court photos of mass graves where bodies were buried, “often unidentified”.

ICJ genocide case: ‘Gaza is nothing short of a moral failure’

“Israel deployed 6,000 bombs per week. At least 200 times it has deployed 2,000-pound bombs in southern Gaza which it designated safe. No one is spared. Not even newborns. UN chiefs have described it as a graveyard for children.”

Israel has pounded the Palestinian enclave since 7 October, killing at least 23,357 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injuring 59,410 others, according to local health authorities.

South African lawyer, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, added: “The genocidal intent of Israel is rooted in the belief that the enemy is not only the military wing of Hamas or even Hamas in general but is embedded in the fabric of Palestinian life in Gaza.”

“Israel is the occupying power that controls Gaza – controlling entry, exit, and internal movement within Gaza.”

Barrister Blinne Ni Ghralaigh detailed how Palestinians were being “blown to pieces” and dozens of children were being labelled as WCNSFs – Wounded Child, No Surviving Family.

“Each day, over ten palestinian children will have one or both legs amputated, many without anaesthetic. 3,900 palestinian homes will be destroyed, more cemeteries will be destroyed and bodies exhumed. Medics will be attacked and killed.”

“Each day, more desperate people will be forced to relocate from places they are sheltering. Entire multiple generation families will be obliterated,” she said.

In her address, the barrister also displayed two images of a whiteboard at a Gaza hospital which featured a handwritten message by a Palestinian doctor that read, “We did what we could. Remember us.”

The second photo depicted the same whiteboard after an Israeli strike on the hospital on 21 November resulting in the death of the Palestinian who wrote the message. The image revealed the complete destruction of the board.

Professor Vaughan Lowe emphasised that genocide can never be justified. He explained that the genocide case was not against Jewish or Israeli people but against the Israeli government.

He said, “South Africa believes the publicly available evidence of the scale of the destruction resulting from the bombardment of Gaza, and the deliberate restriction of food, water, medicine and electricity available to the population of Gaza demonstrates that the government of Israel, not Jewish people or Israeli citizens, the government of Israel and its military is intent on destroying the Palestinians of Gaza as a group and is doing nothing to prevent or punish the actions of others who support that aim.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, South Africa urged the ICJ to issue various directives, including an immediate halt to Israel’s Gaza offensive, cessation of forced displacement, facilitation of humanitarian access to displaced Palestinians and the preservation of evidence.

Israel is due to mount its defence tomorrow morning before the judges determine whether to issue a temporary injunction, a ruling on that could be issued next week. Currently, the court will not make a judgment on the alleged charges of genocide and war crimes by Israel, as these will undergo a thorough examination, potentially taking years before a ruling is reached.