South Africa approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) urgently on Friday, alleging Israel’s breach of the 1948 Genocide Convention during its actions against Hamas in Gaza, according to a Reuters report.
The ICJ, known as the World Court, is a United Nations platform for resolving state disputes. Israel’s foreign ministry dismissed the lawsuit as “baseless” in its response.
In its legal filing, South Africa accused Israel of infringing on its obligations from the Genocide Convention, designed post-Holocaust, which criminalizes the intent to wholly or partially destroy a group.
South Africa requested the ICJ to enact provisional measures to halt Israel’s military actions in Gaza, citing severe and irreparable harm to Palestinian rights.
As of now, no date has been scheduled for the court hearing regarding this matter.
Despite being the U.N.’s primary judicial branch, the ICJ’s rulings are occasionally disregarded, exemplified when it ordered Russia to cease its military activities in Ukraine in March 2022.
Israel has firmly rejected the lawsuit, citing the beginning of hostilities on October 7, when Hamas militants executed a large-scale attack, leading to significant casualties and hostages, followed by Israel’s retaliatory strikes.
In its preliminary reaction, Israel blamed Hamas for Palestinian sufferings, accusing them of using civilians as shields and misappropriating humanitarian aid, charges Hamas refutes.
Israel asserts its efforts to minimize harm to Gaza’s civilians, clarifying that the people there are not the enemy.
Palestine, regarded as an “observer state” by the court, has expressed support for South Africa’s legal action, urging immediate court intervention to protect Palestinians and stop Israel’s actions.
The legal move by South Africa is part of broader efforts to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel, following domestic political actions such as voting to shut down the Israeli embassy in Pretoria.
South Africa’s government, through DIRCO, announced the lawsuit, stressing Israel’s alleged continuous failures to prevent and address genocide since October 7, 2023, and reaffirmed its long-standing support for Palestinian statehood, likening its struggle to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.