South Africa: “Put Israel on trial for genocide”

The situation in Gaza

Published 3 January 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Pro-Palestinian protest and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embracing a soldier.

Late last week, South Africa wrote to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asking it to urgently declare that Israel violated its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention during the invasion of Gaza.

The ICJ, or International Court of Justice, is a UN body created to resolve disputes between states. South Africa’s leaders believe Israel is violating its obligations under the post-World War II treaty, which makes it a crime to attempt to destroy a people in whole or in part, Reuters reports.

They asked the court to issue interim, or short-term, measures ordering Israel to halt its military campaign in Gaza, which it said were “necessary in this case to protect against further serious and irreparable damage to the rights of the Palestinian people”.

In an initial response to South Africa’s lawsuit, Israel’s foreign ministry blamed Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, claiming it uses civilians as human shields and steals humanitarian aid from them, allegations Hamas denies.

“Israel has made it clear that the residents of the Gaza Strip are not the enemy, and is making every effort to limit harm to the non-involved”, the ministry statement said.

“Protecting the Palestinian people”

Palestine, whose statehood is disputed but which has “observer state” status at the court, welcomed South Africa’s application.

“The court must immediately take action to protect the Palestinian people and call on Israel, the occupying power, to halt its onslaught”, the Palestinian foreign ministry said.

The application to the court is the latest move by South Africa, which has been critical of Israel’s war, to ratchet up pressure after the country’s lawmakers voted last month to close the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and sever diplomatic ties.

“Israel, since 7 October 2023 in particular, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide”, the South African foreign ministry wrote.

Another court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC), is separately investigating alleged atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank, but has not named any suspects. Israel is not a member of the ICC and rejects its jurisdiction.

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