In a significant legal development, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is set to hold public hearings on Thursday, January 11, and Friday, January 12, 2024, at the Peace Palace in The Hague. The hearings pertain to proceedings initiated by South Africa against Israel on December 29, 2023.
The case revolves around allegations made by South Africa regarding Israel’s alleged violations of its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (commonly referred to as the “Genocide Convention”) concerning Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This legal action by South Africa has garnered international attention and is expected to be a closely watched legal battle.
The core focus of the upcoming hearings will be on the Request for the indication of provisional measures presented in South Africa’s Application. In its Request, South Africa calls upon the Court to indicate provisional measures aimed at “protecting against further, severe, and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention” and “ensuring Israel’s compliance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention not to engage in genocide, and to prevent and to punish genocide.”
According to a PBS report, South Africa has initiated a two-day hearing seeking binding preliminary orders against Israel in a significant international legal case. This case is considered one of the most significant to be heard in an international court and addresses a core issue in one of the world’s most challenging conflicts.
South Africa’s goal is to compel Israel to halt its military campaign in Gaza, where the health ministry, run by Hamas, reports that more than 23,000 people have died. South African lawyer Adila Hassim argued that there is substantial evidence over the past 13 weeks demonstrating a pattern of conduct and intent that could be seen as genocidal acts. She emphasized that the suffering in Gaza can only be stopped by an order from the court.
On the other hand, Israel contends that it is engaged in a battle with a formidable adversary in the Gaza Strip, responsible for the deadliest attack on its territory since its establishment in 1948, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,200 people. Israel asserts that it adheres to international law and takes precautions to minimize harm to civilians, placing blame on Hamas for embedding itself in residential areas.
South Africa remains steadfast in its claim that Israel intentionally committed genocide, citing the scale of destruction in Gaza, the targeting of civilian homes, and the impact on children as evidence of genocidal intent. Lawyer Tembeka Ngcukaitobi argued that the articulated intent is the destruction of Palestinian life.