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Israel scrambles as support for South Africa’s case at the Hague increases

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Picture: ICJ / via Peoples Dispatch The ICJ is seated at The Hague in the Netherlands. Today, January 11, 2024, the International Court of Justice will hear South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza. Pretoria has received support from a growing list of countries as Israel’s ongoing bombardment has killed over 23,000 Palestinians.

By Tanupriya Singh

As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) gears up to hear South Africa’s case against Israel for its ongoing genocide in Gaza, a growing number of countries have announced their support for the proceedings.

South Africa has accused Israel of violating its obligation to prevent and punish genocide under the 1948 Convention, by carrying out acts and omissions “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial, and ethnic group”.

These acts, the application argues, should be located in the “broader context of Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians during its 75-year-long apartheid, its 56-year-long belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and its 16-year-long blockade of Gaza”.

On January 9, Venezuela issued a statement recognising the “firm and historic step in defence of the Palestinian people and international law”.

“Venezuela reiterates that the multilateral instances of justice must act in accordance with the norms and principles of International Law, and in the face of this act of genocide, they must live up to the grave facts that constitute a clear aggression against humanity and, in particular, the Palestinian people.”

The government of Nicaragua also issued expressed its support for South Africa’s decision on Tuesday, noting that the case was a “concrete step in compliance with the legal obligations that each state party to the Genocide Convention has the right and duty to take and is also the first step towards accountability before the international community”.

“As a State Party to the Genocide Convention, Nicaragua urges Israel to fulfil its obligations under International Law and to immediately end its military assault against the Palestinian people,” the statement read, while also calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Nicaragua and Venezuela have joined countries including Bolivia, Malaysia, Turkey, and the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Co-operation who have issued formal statements backing the case against Israel. Jordan has also announced that it will formally back South Africa at the ICJ and is currently in the process of preparing legal documents.

During a plenary session of the UN General Assembly held on January 9, Pakistan’s Acting Permanent Representative to the UN, Usman Jadoon stated that the country welcomed South Africa’s decision to “bring Israel’s transgressions under the Genocide Convention” to the ICJ.

“Israel’s refusal to stop the slaughter and impede the supply of humanitarian assistance, coupled with forced displacements in Gaza, represent blatant violations of established international law. There must be consequences and accountability for such criminal actions that we have been witnessing for far too long in Occupied Palestine.”

The General Assembly was also holding a debate regarding the use of the veto in the UN Security Council, particularly in the wake of the successive resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza last year that were sabotaged by the US.

The representative from The Maldives also reiterated the government’s support for the proceedings at the Hague, noting the country’s “opposition to the double standard in upholding international law and international humanitarian law”. “Israel’s atrocities against innocent Palestinian civilians should not be allowed to continue without any accountability and repercussions.”

“By intent and by number the actions carried out by Israel are tantamount to genocide and the international community is bound by principles that do not afford us the luxury of complacency while lives are lost and critical infrastructure is destroyed,” stated the representative from Namibia.

“The ramifications of this crisis will reverberate for generations to come. For this reason, we welcome the support and actions by the government of South Africa at the ICJ. Namibia both identifies and aligns with the arguments put forward … and reiterates her long-standing support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and independence, and freedom.”

During its address to the UN General Assembly, the representative of Chile announced that the government would file a referral at the International Criminal Court for an investigation of the crimes being committed in the Occupied Palestinian territories.

Bolivia, South Africa, Djibouti, Bangladesh, and Comoros had also filed a referral to the ICC in November, calling on chief prosecutor Karim Khan to investigate the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

Meanwhile, pressure is also growing in different parts of the world as civil society and political organisations including in Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, and Ireland are calling on governments to take a decisive stand and back South Africa at the ICJ.

On Tuesday, leaders from Ireland’s opposition parties, including Sinn Féin, Labour, People Before Profit, and Social Democrats joined the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign to demand that the government support South Africa’s case at the ICJ. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had stated over the weekend that Ireland would not join Pretoria in the proceedings.

Sinn Féin lawmaker Matt Carthy denounced that the government’s stance “smacks of double standards”, while independent senator Frances Black and Richard Boyd Barrett from People Before Profit accused the government of deferring to the US and its European allies.

“[The government’s] consistent failure to act under the Genocide Convention as they are obliged to or to take any measures to sanction Israel is because they don’t want to embarrass their counterparts in the European Union or the United States for their complicity in continuing to support Israel’s genocide,” Barett said as quoted by The Journal.

“The action being taken by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is more than symbolic. Using the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention, South Africa has filed a very clear case, an over 80-page dossier, documenting the evidence that Israel is committing genocide,” said Labour leader, Ivana Bacik.

In Belgium, the Deputy Prime Minister, Petra de Sutter, also announced that she would take steps for the government to follow in the lead of South Africa and take action at the ICJ.

On January 11, the court will begin public hearings on South Africa’s application. Pretoria has called on the ICJ to issue urgent measures in order to prevent “further, severe, and irreparable harm” to the Palestinian people. These measures include ordering Israel to cease all military operations “in and against Gaza” and all other genocidal acts as outlined in its submission and in accordance with the Genocide Convention.

The US, which has effectively obstructed international efforts for a ceasefire over the past three months, has continued to back Israel.

This article was published on Peoples Dispatch