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Mexico Seeks To Join South Africa v. Israel, withFocus on Defense of Palestine’s Cultural Heritage

Mexico formally sought to join South Africa in its case against Israel, which charges violations of genocide against the Palestinian people. The International Court of Justice announced today, May 28, that Mexico’s application to join is pending. Mexico establishes in its legal brief, that it is a country which is party to the Genocide Convention, and that, like all other such countries, it has an obligation “not to commit genocide,” and to “prevent and punish this international crime.” Mexico’s declaration in support of its request clearly establishes that, to commit genocide, two conditions are required: the act of genocide and also the intent to commit genocide. When a state tolerates these two conditions, the Genocide Convention requires action. Mexico wrote that it and all other participating nations, by this international law, are required to act. Having done this, and laying out its understanding that “intent” must be shown to establish a case of genocide, Mexico next delineates its “Elements to be considered in this case.”

Among the elements it includes, the most striking is Mexico’s emphasis, that, beyond “mass killings,” the “Genocide Convention” also proscribes “a broader array of conduct” taken “together by the intention to destroy … a national, ethnical, racial or religious group,” the destruction of the cultural heritage of the targeted group, which can lead to the extinguishing of said group as well. “It is Mexico’s position that the massive destruction of cultural property and the eradication of any cultural symbol” of the group “can be construed as acts aimed to accomplish the severe” harm to the group, “diminishing or even destroying the connection between culture and the self-determination and identity of a population” as deemed a crime under the Convention. It is the “destruction of the cultural legacy” which is but a different means to achieve the “destruction of the group,” than “executions or mass killings.”

Mexico concludes this section of its request to join the case, saying that it “stands by” the 2014 statement of UN then-Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the case of the destruction of Syria’s cultural heritage: “the protection of cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, is inseparable from the protection of human lives, and should be an integral part of humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts.”