by Anna Violante

On Friday 26 January, the International Court of Justice finally ruled on South Africa’s case against Israel. Joan E. Donoghue, President of the Court, stated that the Court cannot determine whether Israel has committed acts of genocide, as that will require years to be established. Nevertheless, South Africa’s complaints, or at least some of them, appear to be falling within the provisions of Article 9 of the Convention. Israel’s request to remove South Africa’s case is therefore rejected. Israel must, under its obligations within Article 2 of the Convention about the Palestinians in Gaza, she says “take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of article 2 of the convention.”

In particular:

  1. A) Killing groups or members of the group
  2. B) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group
  3. C) deliberately inflicting the group conditions calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
  4. D) imposing measures with the intent to prevent burst to the group.”

The Court has also ordered that Israel must ensure that its troops did not commit any genocidal acts in Gaza and punish the ones who did or will do so. It also ordered an improvement in the humanitarian situation.

“Today marks a decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people. In a landmark ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has determined that Israel’s actions in Gaza are plausibly genocidal and has indicated provisional measures on that basis.” South Africa writes in an official statement and continues addressing the UN Security Council: “The United Nations Security Council will now be formally notified of the Court’s order under Article 41(2) of the Court’s Statute. The veto power wielded by individual states cannot be permitted to thwart international justice, not least in light of the ever-worsening situation in Gaza brought about by Israel’s acts and omissions in violation of the Genocide Convention.” About Israel, its conclusions are: “South Africa sincerely hopes that Israel will not act to frustrate the application of this Order, as it has publicly threatened to do, but that it will instead act to comply with it fully, as it is bound to do.”

Satisfied with the court’s decision, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas feel they are now in a stronger position to negotiate the future of their people with Israel.

But Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International warns that this is just a first step as “an immediate ceasefire by all parties remains essential and – although not ordered by the Court – is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering.”

Israel’s official response is now expected, as is its implementation of the Court’s provisions. As Agnès Gallimar reminds us “crucially, the Court also ordered Israel to preserve evidence of genocide and to submit a report to the Court, within one month, of all measures taken in line with its order.”

Cover photo ©oliverdelahaye/