(CTN News) – South Africa urgently petitioned the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, seeking a declaration that Israel had violated its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention during its crackdown on the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza.
The Genocide Convention, formulated in the aftermath of the Holocaust, criminalizes attempts to destroy a people, either wholly or partially.
These measures were deemed “necessary in this case to protect against further, severe, and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people.”
— CIJ_ICJ (@CIJ_ICJ) December 29, 2023
The ICJ, also known as the World Court, serves as the United Nations platform for resolving disputes between states. Israel’s foreign ministry responded to the suit, dismissing it as “baseless.”
Despite the ICJ’s status as the highest court within the UN, its rulings are sometimes disregarded. In a similar instance in March 2022, the court had ordered Russia to immediately halt its military campaign in Ukraine.
The conflict in question began on October 7 when Hamas militants carried out a cross-border attack, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages according to Israel’s count.
In response, Israel launched an assault on Hamas-ruled Gaza, resulting in over 21,000 casualties, as reported by Palestinian health officials.
Israel Faces Legal Action from South Africa Amid Ongoing Diplomatic Strain
Israel, in its initial response to South Africa’s legal action, attributed the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza to Hamas, accusing the group of using civilians as human shields and misappropriating humanitarian aid. These allegations were denied by Hamas.
This move by South Africa represents its latest effort to exert pressure on Israel, following its lawmakers’ recent vote in favor of closing the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspending all diplomatic relations until a ceasefire is achieved in the ongoing conflict.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in South Africa stated in its application that “Israel, since October 7, 2023, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide.”
South Africa has been a longstanding critic of Israel’s policies and has supported the Palestinian cause for statehood in territories occupied by Israel.
This support is often framed by South Africa, drawing parallels between the Palestinian plight and the struggles of the Black majority in South Africa during the repressive apartheid era—a comparison vehemently denied by Israel.