JOHANNESBURG, Jan 26 (IPS) — The International Court of Justice today told Israel to take all measures to prevent a genocide in the Gaza Strip.
The order with provisional measures was read by Judge Joan E Donoghue, President of the Court, which ordered the State of Israel to adhere to an order to prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis experienced by the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
Donoghue told the court that the facts and circumstances were sufficient to conclude that some of the “rights claimed by South Africa and for which it is seeking protection were plausible.
The ICJ, which is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, delivered its order in the case submitted by South Africa in the case concerning the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip.
“The court is not called upon for purposes of its decision on the request for the indication of provisional measures to establish the existence of breaches of obligations under the Genocide Convention, but to determine whether the circumstances require the indication of provisional measures for the protection of rights under that instrument,” she explained.
Quoting from UN General Assembly Resolution 96 of December 11, 1946, she said genocide shocks “the conscience of mankind.”
Before going through the list of provisional measures, she quoted high-profile members of the United Nations, including its Secretary General, António Guterres, who warned the Security Council on December 6, 2023, that health care in Gaza was collapsing.
“Nowhere is safe in Gaza, amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces and without shelter or the essentials to survive. I expect public order to break to completely break down soon, due to the desperate conditions rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible.”
He then went on to warn that the situation could get worse, “including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into neighboring countries. We are facing a severe risk of the collapse of the humanitarian system. The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe, with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole.”
Donoghue told the court that it considers the rights in question in the proceeding plausible.
“The court considers that the plausible rights in question in this proceeding, namely, the right of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to be protected from acts of genocide and related prohibited acts identified in Article Three of the Genocide Convention and the right of South Africa to seek Israel’s compliance with the latter’s obligation under the convention, are of such a nature that prejudiced them and was "capable of causing irreparable harm.”
She pointed out that the provisional measures didn’t have to match those South Africa requested.
In terms of the order:
- Israel must, in accordance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article 2 of the Convention, which deals with the destruction of a group in whole or in part. This includes killing groups of members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, and deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. It was also prevented from imposing measures that were intended to prevent births within the group. Article 2
- The court further considered that Israel must ensure, with immediate effect, that its military forces do not commit any of the acts designed to destroy a group, and the State of Israel must take measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to the members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.
- The court ordered Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
- Israel must also take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Articles 2 and 3 of the Genocide Convention against members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.
- Israel must submit a report to the court on all measures taken to give effect to the order within one month of the order. "The report so provided shall then be communicated to South Africa.
"The court reaffirms the decision given in the present proceedings and in no way prejudges the question of the jurisdiction of the court to deal with the merits of the case or any questions related to the admissibility of the application or to the merits themselves."
She added that the court was gravely concerned about the fate of the hostages abducted during the attack in Israel on October 7, 2023, and held since then by Hamas and other armed groups, and called for their immediate and unconditional release.