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South Africa Files Charges Against Israel at International Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague announced today that South Africa has filed charges against Israel for genocide in Gaza, and has called for provisional measures to end it. The ICJ statement says that the filing alleges that “acts and omissions by Israel … are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent … to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.” Israel’s behavior “is in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention.”

South Africa called upon the ICJ to initiate provisional measures to help “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm” to Palestinians under the Genocide Convention, which begins with Israel having to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.” Evidently, ICJ rules give the application priority over all other cases due to the inclusion of the request for provisional measures to be taken.

In an X post announcing the action, the Presidency of South Africa wrote today: “South Africa is gravely concerned with the plight of civilians caught in the present Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip due to the indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants.” It adds:

As a State Party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, South Africa is under a treaty obligation to prevent genocide from occurring.

It concludes with these paragraphs:

Therefore, at a special meeting held on 8 December 2023, Cabinet directed that the International Court of Justice in The Hague be approached to obtain an order directing Israel, which is also a State Party, to refrain from any acts that may constitute genocide or related crimes under the Convention.

An application in this regard was filed before the Court on 29 December 2023 in which the Court is requested to declare on an urgent basis that Israel is in breach of its obligations in terms of the Genocide Convention, should immediately cease all acts and measures in breach of those obligations and take a number of related actions.