South Africa has lodged a complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accusing Israel of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip.
The initial hearing is scheduled for Thursday, with Israel planning to actively participate in the court proceedings. The immediate goal for Israel is to prevent the court from ordering an immediate halt to its operations in Gaza, as requested by South Africa.
The Role of the International Court of Justice
The ICJ, unlike the International Criminal Court, handles legal disputes between states and has the authority to deliberate on issues such as genocide. Israel does not recognize the ICC’s authority, which is currently investigating allegations of war crimes committed by both Israel and the Palestinians.
However, Israel is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which gives the ICJ the authority to hear South Africa’s complaint.
South Africa alleges that Israel is committing genocide in the Gaza Strip and failing to punish those inciting genocide. It accuses Israel of “indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants,” and claims that Israel’s actions meet the criteria for genocide.
South Africa seeks an immediate halt to actions that could be considered genocidal and is asking the court to order Israel to allow displaced Palestinians to return to their homes in Gaza, stop denying them food, water, and humanitarian aid, ensure that Israelis are not inciting genocide, punish those who do, and allow an independent investigation of its actions.
The ICJ proceedings could last several years, but South Africa wants an immediate declaration that Israel is committing acts that could be considered genocide. If the court rules in favor of South Africa, it could lead to Israel’s isolation, sanctions against it or Israeli companies, and other international repercussions. The proceedings could also influence the ICC’s investigation into alleged war crimes.
Israel’s Legal Team
Israel has appointed retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak to represent it on the judge’s panel and has retained British international legal scholar Prof. Malcolm Shaw to defend against South Africa’s submission.
Israel is keen to prove that the allegations against it are unfounded and will argue that it is doing everything possible to prevent harm to innocents, frequently allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, and only acting against Hamas.
Read more at Haaretz.