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FACTBOX - Which countries have joined South Africa's genocide case against Israel?

May 13, 2024 at 3:43 pm

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services of South Africa Ronald Lamola answers the questions of press members related to the public hearings of South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands on January 11, 2024 [Dursun Aydemir – Anadolu Agency]

Over the past few months, South Africa’s genocide case against Israel for its ongoing war on Gaza has snowballed into a larger global affair as a raft of countries have either formally applied to intervene or declared their intention to do so.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) gave a preliminary ruling in the case in late January, ordering Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent actions that could fall under the Genocide Convention.

It also ordered Tel Aviv to prevent and punish genocide, ensure aid flow to Gaza and preserve evidence of crimes committed in the devastated enclave.

Since the preliminary rulings, several countries have come forward to intervene in the case, using a provision in the ICJ Statute that allows third parties to join in proceedings if they consider that they have “an interest of a legal nature which may be affected by the “decision in the case”.

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Formal position: Nicaragua, Colombia, Libya

The Central American nation of Nicaragua was the first to formally approach the top UN Court.

It filed an application on 23 January for permission to intervene “as a party” in the case, the ICJ said in a statement on 8 February.

In the application, Nicaragua said it “has interests of a legal nature that stem from the rights and obligations imposed by the Genocide Convention on all State Parties”, read the statement.

Nicaragua considers that the conduct of Israel is in “violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention”, it added.

Later, on 1 March, Nicaragua filed a separate application for a case against Germany, accusing it of violating its obligations under the Genocide Convention and “facilitating the commission of genocide” by giving Israel “political, financial and military support” and by defunding the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The latter case was heard by the ICJ in April, but the Court declined the request for emergency measures against Germany.

After Nicaragua, Colombia approached the ICJ in April, seeking permission to intervene and urging the Court to ensure “the safety and, indeed, the very existence of the Palestinian people”.

In its declaration submitted to the Court, Colombia said its “ultimate goal … is to ensure the urgent and fullest possible protection for Palestinians in Gaza, in particular such vulnerable populations as women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly”.

The third country to formally apply to intervene in the case is Libya, which submitted a declaration to the ICJ on 10 May.

In its declaration, Libya said Israel’s actions in Gaza are “of genocidal character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group.”

Intention to intervene: Maldives, Egypt, Turkiye, Ireland, Belgium

The latest country to make any sort of move regarding South Africa’s genocide case is Maldives, which reiterated on Monday its intention to intervene.

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This decision has been taken “on the premise that Israel is in violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide”, the presidency said in a statement. It accused Israel of committing “genocidal acts … under the guise of security concerns” that have “resulted in mass displacement, acute starvation and blockage of humanitarian aid.”

The Maldives government had said, earlier in late January, that it had decided to intervene in the case.

Its new statement about ICJ proceedings came just a day after Egypt declared its intent to join the case against Israel.

In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the decision was taken “in light of the escalating severity and scope of the Israeli assaults against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and the systematic targeting of civilians and destruction of infrastructure in the Strip.”

“These actions constitute a flagrant violation of international law, humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 regarding the protection of civilians during wartime,” the Ministry said.

It called on Israel to comply with its obligations and the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ, while also demanding urgent steps from the UN Security Council and other stakeholders for a ceasefire and halt to Israel’s invasion of Rafah.

On 1 May, Turkiye announced its intention to intervene in the genocide case against Israel.

Foreign Minister, Hakan Fidan, said Turkiye hopes its intervention would help ensure that the ICJ case “will progress in the right direction”.

He said Ankara had been working on the matter for “a very long time”, and will soon complete its legal work.

From Europe, two countries have voiced their intention to intervene in the case.

On 27 March, Ireland announced it would join the case, with Foreign Minister, Michael Martin, saying officials had been directed to “commence work on a declaration of intervention”.

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“It is for the Court to determine whether genocide is being committed. But I want to be clear in reiterating what I have said many times in the last few months; what we saw on Oct. 7 in Israel, and what we are seeing in Gaza now, represents the blatant violation of international humanitarian law on a mass scale,” Martin said in a statement.

“The taking of hostages. The purposeful holding of humanitarian assistance to civilians. The targeting of civilians and of civilian infrastructure. The indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas. The use of civilian objects for military purposes. The collective punishment of an entire population.”

All of this has to stop, said Martin, asserting that “enough is enough”.

Earlier in March, Belgium made a similar announcement, saying it would submit an application to the ICJ.

However, Foreign Minister, Hadja Lahbib, clarified that Belgium’s potential involvement was “not about taking sides in favour or against one or the other party” but rather an attempt at “strengthening the universality of international agreements to which states are parties”.

Intervention for Israel: Germany

The only country that has, so far, vowed to intervene in the ICJ case to support Israel is its staunch ally, Germany.

Berlin made that announcement on 12 January, even before the top UN Court handed down its preliminary rulings.

In a statement, government spokesman, Steffen Hebestreit, said Berlin “firmly and explicitly rejects the accusation of genocide,” adding that it has “no basis whatsoever”.

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