UN court hears South Africa genocide case against Israel - BBC News

Gunnar Larson g at xny.io
Thu Jan 11 03:57:59 PST 2024


The UN's International Court of Justice is hearing a case brought by South
Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

The submission also calls on the court to order Israel to stop military
operations there.

The ICJ will deliver only an opinion on the genocide allegation as the case
is not a criminal trial, although it is being closely watched.

Israel has vehemently rejected the accusation as "baseless".

There were angry scenes outside the ICJ's Peace Palace on Thursday as Dutch
police struggled to keep groups of Palestinian and Israeli supporters apart.

Hundreds of people waving Palestinian flags gathered outside the ICJ,
calling for a ceasefire. Israeli supporters set up a screen showing images
of some of the hostages still being held in Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian protests also took place in Cape Town, South Africa.

South Africa will present its case on Thursday and Israel its defence on

In its submission, South Africa says Israel's actions "are intended to
bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian
national, racial and ethnical group".

It says Israel's actions include "killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing
them serious bodily and mental harm, and inflicting on them conditions of
life calculated to bring about their physical destruction".

It calls for "provisional measures" to be implemented by the court as a
matter of urgency, including that Israel cease all military activities in

Israel has defended its actions in Gaza, saying it is responding to Hamas's
deadly attacks on 7 October, but speaking in court on Thursday, South
Africa's Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said no attack "can provide
justification for or defend breaches of the [Genocide] Convention".

Israel is a signatory to the Genocide Convention of 1948, which defines
genocide and commits states to prevent it.

The ICJ is the UN's top court, based in the Hague in the Netherlands. Its
rulings are theoretically legally binding on parties to the ICJ - which
include Israel and South Africa - but are not enforceable.

In 2022, the court ordered Russia to "immediately suspend military
operations" in Ukraine, an order that was ignored.

Under international law, genocide is defined as committing one or more acts
with the intention to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic,
racial or religious group.

Red and white police tape has been placed outside the Peace Palace - as the
ICJ building is called - in an attempt to bring some semblance of order to
the chaotic scenes outside.

It is in contrast to the formality inside the court, where the Israeli
delegation is listening to South Africa's lawyers accuse the country's
forces of committing genocide in Gaza.

Israel denies this, and on Friday will have a chance to respond. Its
delegation is expected to highlight its right to self-defence under
international law - this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said
Israel has no intention of permanently displacing the people of Gaza, or
occupying the territory.
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