South Africa’s genocide case towards Israel: 5 issues in regards to the ICJ hearings | EUROtoday

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Israel is slated to seem earlier than the International Court of Justice in The Hague on Thursday to face accusations it’s committing genocide in Gaza in a case that would impression the trajectory of the battle.

South Africa, which introduced the case, alleges that Israel is violating worldwide regulation by committing and failing to stop genocidal acts “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza.”

Israel has rejected the allegations — as has its most essential ally, the United States.

The ICJ case provides to worldwide strain on Israel to cut back or finish its battle towards Hamas, which well being officers in Gaza say has killed greater than 23,000 folks — a lot of them girls and youngsters — rendered a lot of the enclave uninhabitable and pushed the inhabitants to the brink of famine.

Israel launched the marketing campaign after Hamas militants rampaged via Israeli communities Oct. 7, killing round 1,200 folks and taking greater than 200 hostages.

After hearings Thursday and Friday, judges are anticipated to rule inside weeks on interventions South Africa has requested to vary Israel’s conduct of the battle. A verdict on the query of genocide may take years.

What is the ICJ, and what authority does it have?

The International Court of Justice, established after World War II to settle disputes between nations, is the principle judicial physique of the United Nations.

The U.N. General Assembly and Security Council elect the courtroom’s 15 judges to nine-year phrases. Its president is Joan Donoghue, a former authorized adviser to the State Department.

A 1948 conference, ratified after the Holocaust, made genocide against the law below worldwide regulation and gave the ICJ the authority to find out whether or not states have dedicated it.

The courtroom’s rulings are legally binding, however enforcement may be difficult and they are often ignored. Russia, for instance, rejected a 2022 order to stop its battle towards Ukraine.

The ICJ is distinct from the International Criminal Court, a more recent physique that tries people accused of violating worldwide legal guidelines together with battle crimes and genocide. Neither Israel nor the United States acknowledges the ICC’s jurisdiction.

What is South Africa’s genocide case towards Israel?

In an 84-page submitting, South Africa accuses Israel of intending “to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

“Israel has reduced and is continuing to reduce Gaza to rubble, killing, harming and destroying its people, and creating conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group,” the nation argues.

South Africa factors to Israel’s large-scale killing and maiming of civilians; its use of “dumb” bombs; the mass displacement and the destruction of neighborhoods; “deprivation of access to adequate food and water,” medical care, shelter, garments, hygiene and sanitation to civilians; its obliteration of Palestinian civic establishments; and its failure to supply anyplace of security for Gazans.

South Africa additionally accuses Israel of stopping Palestinian births by displacing pregnant folks, denying them entry to meals, water and care, and killing them.

To achieve success, South Africa must present that Israel’s aim is not only to wipe out Hamas, however to destroy Palestinians “as such” in Gaza. The nation quotes Israeli leaders calling for mass expulsions from Gaza or denying that anybody there may be harmless.

In a submitting with the ICJ, South Africa accused Israel of “genocidal intent”, pointing to statements by top officials. Israel denies the allegations. (Video: Joy Yi/The Washington Post)

Proving genocidal intent will be a challenge, said Adil Haque, a professor of international law at Rutgers. Still, he said, Israel will be called to explain: “How can it be that all of these military and political leaders are making these extreme statements?”

Amichai Cohen, a law professor at Israel’s Ono Academic College, said South Africa’s case reflects “classic cherry-picking.”

“There have been things said and tweeted and written by Israeli politicians that are extremely problematic,” he said. “But these are not the decision-makers.” Still, he said, a recent uptick in calls from right-wing Israeli ministers for the “emigration” of Palestinians from Gaza “doesn’t help.”

Israel vehemently denies the allegations and says South Africa is “criminally complicit” with Hamas.

“We have been clear in word and in deed that we are targeting the October seventh monsters and are innovating ways to uphold international law,” government spokesman Eylon Levy said last week.

“Our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Tuesday.

Israeli officials say they’re not targeting civilians or trying to force Palestinians out of Gaza. Israel blames Hamas for using civilians as human shields. The government has embarked on a public-relations campaign to rebut allegations that it’s obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Israeli officials accuse Hamas and allied groups of waging a genocidal campaign against Jews. The government on Wednesday published a website intended for foreign viewers with graphic images from the Oct. 7 attacks and their aftermath.

But the ICJ has authority to look at allegations solely towards states, not militant teams.

Who will argue and check out the case?

South African human rights specialist John Dugard leads his country’s legal team. He has extensive experience investigating Israel’s alleged rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, and has served as an ad hoc judge on the ICJ.

Israel’s defense team is led by British lawyer Malcolm Shaw, a specialist in territorial disputes who has defended the United Arab Emirates, Cameroon and Serbia before the ICJ.

The choice of a figure respected in the field, Cohen said, “signifies that Israel is taking the case seriously.”

Each side is allowed to appoint one judge to the bench, for a total of 17. These ad hoc judges are supposed to weigh facts independently, but states tend to appoint judges they believe will be sympathetic to their arguments.

Israel has picked the former president of its high court, Aharon Barak, an advocate for judicial independence and, notably, a critic of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to overhaul Israeli courts. Barak’s appointment Sunday drew praise from Israeli centrists and condemnation from Netanyahu’s right-wing allies.

Cohen described Barak is a “great defender of the state of Israel.” Barak told Canada’s Globe and Mail several weeks into the war that Israel’s mission and conduct in Gaza did not violate international law.

South Africa chose Dikgang Moseneke, a former deputy chief justice of its constitutional court. Moseneke helped to draft South Africa’s interim constitution in 1993, as the country transitioned from apartheid to democracy.

The appointees’ personal backgrounds — Barak is a Holocaust survivor; Moseneke spent time in prison for his activism against apartheid — “might make for a very interesting clash,” said Haque, the Rutgers professor.

Why are the hearings this week important?

The hearings are to consider “provisional measures” to stop conditions in Gaza from worsening while the case progresses. One measure South Africa is requesting: that Israel “cease killing” the people in Gaza. South Africa will argue its case Thursday. Israel will respond Friday.

The order for Moscow to cease fighting in Ukraine showed the limits to the court’s power. Juliette McIntyre, a lecturer in law at the University of South Australia who specializes in international courts and tribunals, said she would be surprised if the court issued a similar order against Israel.

“I think we are likely to see a much more nuanced order relating to ensuring that aid, water, etc, is allowed into Gaza and that Israel has to uphold its commitments,” she wrote in an email.

The only way to enforce an ICJ order is through a vote of the U.N. Security Council. Any of the council’s five permanent members, including the United States, could veto any such measure. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week called the genocide case “meritless.”

But given recent U.S. efforts pushing Israel to try harder to minimize civilian deaths, McIntyre wrote, an order could provide cover to apply greater pressure “without being perceived as backing down against Hamas.”

By defending itself in court, Haque said, Israel is accepting its legitimacy — that “will make it more difficult to defy the court’s orders later on.”

John Hudson and Lior Soroka in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.