South African Legal Team Presents Genocide Case Against Israel at The ICJ
The South African legal team, addressing the International Court of Justice, presented a compelling case concerning the dire situation in Gaza and Israel’s violations of the Genocide Convention.
They starkly quantified the human toll of the crisis, stating, “23,210 Palestinians, 70% of whom are believed to be women and children, have been killed by Israeli forces during the last three months’ sustained attack.” Additionally, they reported that “over 7,000 Palestinians are missing, presumed dead or enduring slow, excruciating deaths under the rubble.”
The team vividly described Gaza as a “living hell,” echoing the United Nations Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs’ depiction of the area as a “bloodbath” and a place of “unmatched horror.” Families are enduring “sleeping in the open, relentless bombardments, and overwhelmed medical facilities under attack.” This portrayal lays the foundation for understanding the ensuing public health disaster, with infectious diseases spreading in overcrowded shelters and an imminent threat of famine. The crisis profoundly affects children, who face trauma, food and water scarcity, and the incessant terror of war. Consequently, Gaza is characterized as uninhabitable, with daily existential threats to its people.
The legal team provided detailed statistics to underscore the urgency of the situation: on average, 247 Palestinians, including 48 mothers and 117 children, are at risk of being killed each day. Reports of executions, torture, and decomposing bodies are surging. The World Food Program’s statement that four out of five people in severe hunger are in Gaza highlights the catastrophic food and health situation. The UNICEF has termed Israel’s actions a “war on children,” reflecting the profound impact on the youngest and most vulnerable.
The widespread destruction is staggering, with thousands of Palestinian homes, mass graves, and cemeteries destroyed. The team emphasized that medics, teachers, UN employees, and journalists are being specifically targeted, with one medic killed every second day. Approximately 629 people are wounded daily, while famine risks continue to escalate.
Drawing a direct connection between these humanitarian crises and the legal standards for provisional measures, the team argued for the urgent need to prevent irreparable prejudice to the rights at issue. They cited the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, calling for an end to “the decimation of Gaza and its people.” The speaker then linked these current events to the Court’s history in similar cases.
The speaker drew parallels to situations in Bosnia, Serbia, Gambia, Myanmar, and Ukraine vs. Russia, where the Court had recognized provisional measures in the face of grave risks, including acts of genocide and mass killings. They argued that the evidence presented about Gaza mirrored these precedents, justifying the need for provisional measures. In previous decisions, such as in the Bosnia and Serbia case of 1993, the Court had found sufficient evidence of a “grave risk of acts of genocide being committed.” Similarly, in the Gambia vs. Myanmar case, the Court responded to risks of irreparable prejudice to the Rohingya, subject to “mass killings” and other severe rights violations.
In concluding, the legal team emphasized that the situation in Gaza meets the criteria for provisional measures based on the Court’s established practices and the evident and urgent humanitarian crisis. This approach effectively highlighted the gravity of the situation and provided a clear legal basis for the Court’s intervention.