Israel-Hamas war: ICJ hears South Africa's genocide case

World Thursday 11/January/2024 20:46 PM
By: DW
Israel-Hamas war: ICJ hears South Africa's genocide case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has begun hearing South Africa's arguments in a case accusing Israel of carrying out genocide in the Gaza Strip as it carries out an offensive against Hamas  in the Palestinian territory.

The court will hear Israel's response to the allegations on Friday.

South Africa is first up demanding an emergency suspension of Israel's military campaign in Gaza, with a ruling on the genocide allegations likely to take years.

In opening comments, South African representatives said the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants in southern Israel, in which more than 1,100 Israelis, mostly civilians, died and during which multiple atrocities were committed, was no justification for Israel's current actions.

They said at least some of the acts committed by Israeli forces in Gaza went against the UN Genocide Convention, and that those acts could not be considered an appropriate response to the October 7 attacks.

"No armed attack on a state territory no matter how serious. .. can provide any justification for or defense to breaches of the convention," said Ronald Lamola, South Africa's justice minister.

Among other things, South African representatives said, the extent of bombing by Israel was unparalleled and that Israel had made the Gaza Strip virtually uninhabitable.

The hearing is being accompanied by protests from both sides of the case.

Israel has rejected the accusations of genocide as baseless and accused Pretoria of playing "advocate of the devil" for Hamas, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, the EU and Germany, among other governments.

Genocides are 'never declared in advance,' says South African lawyer

South Africa's lawyers have detailed their case alleging genocide against Israel, with senior lawyer Adila Hassim saying "nothing will stop the suffering except an order from this court."

"Without an indication of provisional measures, the atrocities will continue, with the Israeli Defense Force indicating that it intends pursuing this course of action for at least a year," Hassim told judges and audience in the packed, ornate room of the Peace Palace in The Hague.

South Africa has alleged that Israel has breached the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, and has urged the court to order "provisional measures" to protect Palestinians in Gaza.

The provisional measures to protect people included in South Africa's application would include Israel halting its military attacks that "constitute or give rise to violations of the Genocide Convention," and to rescind related measures amounting to collective punishment and forced displacement.