South Africa files genocide case against Israel at World Court
South Africa asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday for an urgent order declaring that Israel was in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention in its crackdown against the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza, Reuters reports.
The ICJ, sometimes known as the World Court, is the United Nations venue for resolving disputes between states. Israel’s foreign ministry said in a reaction the suit was “baseless.”
South Africa’s filing alleged Israel was violating its obligations under the treaty, drafted in the wake of the Holocaust, which makes it a crime to attempt to destroy a people in whole or in part.
It asked the court to issue provisional, or short-term, measures ordering Israel to stop its military campaign in Gaza, which it said were “necessary in this case to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people”.
No date has been set for a hearing.
While the ICJ in The Hague is considered the U.N.’s highest court, its rulings are sometimes ignored. In March 2022 the court ordered Russia to immediately halt its military campaign in Ukraine.
The court application is the latest move by South Africa, a vociferous critic of Israel’s war, to ratchet up pressure after its lawmakers last month voted in favour of closing down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria and suspending all diplomatic relations until a ceasefire was reached in the war.
In a statement from South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the government said the application against Israel was filed on Friday.
“Israel, since 7 October 2023 in particular, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide,” DIRCO said in a statement.
South Africa has backed the Palestinian cause for statehood in Israeli-occupied territories for decades, likening the plight of Palestinians to those of the Black majority in South Africa during the repressive apartheid-era, a comparison Israel vehemently denies.