OPINION 16 HOURS AGO The ICJ’s latest ruling delivers new hope to Palestinians in Gaza

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OPINION

16 HOURS AGO

The ICJ’s latest ruling delivers new hope to Palestinians in Gaza

If Israel does not comply, the international community now has new tools to pressure the country into halting its illegal war.

Basel Sourani works as international advocacy and relations officer at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a Gaza-based NGO. His work primarily focuses on advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people, reporting on Israel’s violations and crimes against them, and holding perpetrators accountable before United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as the International Criminal Court. He has worked previously as a diplomat at Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

BASEL SOURANI

A protester shows support for Palestinians in Gaza outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) amid a case brought before the court by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands May 24, 2024. / Photo: Reuters

REUTERS

A protester shows support for Palestinians in Gaza outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) amid a case brought before the court by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands May 24, 2024. / Photo: Reuters

This week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s highest court, delivered a new set of strong and legally-binding provisional measures in South Africa’s case against Israel.

The ruling was made in light of the unprecedented and deteriorating humanitarian situation Palestinians in Gaza are facing as Israel intensifies its genocidal military campaign, which has been ongoing for nearly seven and a half months.

South Africa, the country which took upon itself the protection of the Palestinian people and acted in accordance with its legal and moral obligation under the Genocide Convention, made repeated requests to the ICJ to intervene in the war on Gaza.

The court has finally ordered Israel to immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the southern city of Rafah, ensure unimpeded access to any United Nations (UN) mandated body to investigate allegations of genocide, and to maintain open land crossing points, including the Rafah crossing with Egypt, for unhindered provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid.

In addition, Israel was ordered to submit a report to the court on all measures taken within one month.

This decision by the ICJ carries an important legal weight.

It means that Israel is now not only under a legal obligation to comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention as provided by the ICJ in a previous ruling, but also under an obligation to halt its ongoing ground operation in Rafah and any other military action in the area.

For months, human rights and humanitarian organisations, UN agencies, and a significant number of countries have been warning about an Israeli attack on Rafah and the potential unprecedented bloodbath that could ensue due to the area’s high population density.

While the ICJ did not order a complete cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from Gaza, as requested by South Africa and hoped for by the Palestinian people, its decision nevertheless constitutes a significant step toward realising that goal and has important implications in terms of accountability for Israel’s grave and inhumane crimes.

First, the decision puts Israel in front of two options: either comply or don’t comply. If it does not comply, as shown by the conduct of its forces in Gaza over the last four months since the ICJ’s first ruling in January, Israel risks being hit with further measures from the court.

AFP

South African ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela (R) attends a hearing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as part of South Africa’s request on a Gaza ceasefire in The Hague, on May 24, 2024 (AFP).

The ICJ could order a complete cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces, which South Africa is likely to request in the case of Israel’s non-compliance, given the country’s dedication and commitment to uphold the rights and lives of the Palestinian people.

Secondly, the decision increases pressure on the United States, Israel’s main supporter, to force Israel to end its military offensive in Gaza. By continuing to support Israel, the US government also leaves itself open to litigation on the same grounds.

The US has provided Israel with political, military, financial and diplomatic support, including by using its veto power against three UN resolutions demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. It has abstained from one resolution, adopted by the UN Security Council, calling for a ceasefire during Ramadan, which Israel completely disregarded.

This ICJ decision will make it increasingly difficult for the United States to provide diplomatic cover for Israel at the Security Council. It will also mean that the United States must cease transfer of arms in the case that Israel proceeds with the Rafah invasion, to avoid more complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

Thirdly, the decision comes several days after International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan filed applications for arrest warrants for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant. They face charges related to international crimes under the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute, including the war crime of starvation and crimes against humanity of extermination and persecution.

While Khan has not charged them with the crime of genocide, which is also criminalised under the Rome Statute, the ICJ’s recent decision increases pressure on him to investigate and potentially issue additional warrants against them and other Israeli political and military leaders for this crime.

Additionally, the ICJ’s decision will help Khan secure his request for the issuance of arrest warrants from the ICC.

Fourthly, it sends another strong signal to Israel that the age of impunity and lack of accountability is nearing its end. Israel has enjoyed decades-long impunity by the international community to a point where the top officials felt comfortable making genocidal statements against Palestinians publicly.

AFP

A displaced Palestinian man carries water as he walks along a devastated street in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on May 24, 2024 (Eyad BABA / AFP).

Soldiers have committed the most heinous massacres live on air on a daily basis, killing more than 35,800 Palestinians, the majority of whom are children and women, injuring more than 80,000 others.

Israeli political and military leaders are not used to being held accountable for any sort of violations or crime, which explains the recent furious reactions and accusations made by the most senior officials of the Israeli government against the ICJ, ICC and UN officials and institutions, including the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

While the tragedy Palestinians have experienced is unspeakable, the recent developments in the international justice sphere, including the ICJ’s new decision, provides hope for Palestinians that international law is still alive, thanks to South Africa’s brave decision to pursue this just and fair case.

States must avoid selectivity and double standards in their application of international law to create a world based on the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle.

Now that the ICJ judges have done their part, it is time for countries in accordance with their obligations under international law to give effect to the court’s rulings and prevent the continuation of genocide in Gaza.

This includes exerting pressure to force Israel to halt its military offensive in Rafah, and hopefully the rest of its military operations across Gaza.

States must avoid selectivity and double standards in their application of international law to create a world based on the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle. Palestinians deserve justice and dignity like any other people around the world.

SOURCE: TRT WORLD

Basel Sourani works as international advocacy and relations officer at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a Gaza-based NGO. His work primarily focuses on advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people, reporting on Israel’s violations and crimes against them, and holding perpetrators accountable before United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as the International Criminal Court. He has worked previously as a diplomat at Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Basel Sourani

Basel Sourani works as international advocacy and relations officer at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, a Gaza-based NGO. His work primarily focuses on advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people, reporting on Israel’s violations and crimes against them, and holding perpetrators accountable before United Nations human rights mechanisms as well as the International Criminal Court. He has worked previously as a diplomat at Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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