Global call to support South Africa's ICJ lawsuit against Israel

International Court of Justice
(Photo: Twitter/X)

SAN DIEGO – On Monday, Dr. Marjorie Cohn, a law professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, called on the Arab nations to take action regarding Israel’s besiegement on Gaza and the West Bank, Jo24 reported.

Dr. Cohn explained that Israel has enjoyed an exemption for its crimes against Palestinians for almost four months. But that changed on Dec. 29, 2023, when South Africa submitted an 84-page request to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

She stated that Israel is currently exerting intense pressure on the ICJ to prevent it from concluding that it has indeed committed genocide in the Gaza Strip. She noted that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued instructions to its embassies on Jan. 4 to pressure politicians and diplomats in host countries to make statements that contradict and conflict with what South Africa has submitted to the court.

Dr. Cohn warned that it is expected for other parties, including Arab and Islamic countries, to join in and support South Africa’s proposal, especially since the procedures followed by the ICJ allow it.

Parties to the Genocide Convention may either request permission to intervene in the case brought by South Africa or file their own requests against Israel in the ICJ. South Africa’s request identifies many countries that have referred to the genocide committed by Israel in Gaza. These countries include Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Iran, Palestine, Turkey, Venezuela, Bangladesh, Egypt, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Namibia, Pakistan, and Syria.

On Jan. 5, Quds Press News Agency tweeted that “Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, announces that his country supports the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel in the ICJ. He added that the Jordanian government is preparing a legal file to follow up on the case. Turkey, Malaysia, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have also announced their support for the case.”

Moreover, many organizations have also called for the global intervention and support of South Africa’s lawsuit.

The International Coalition to Stop Genocide in Palestine, which was recently formed and endorsed by over 600 groups worldwide, met to urge parties to initiate the Genocide Convention. The coalition confirms that “declarations of intervention to support South Africa’s activation of the Genocide Convention against Israel will increase the likelihood of a positive outcome of the genocide crime being imposed by the UN so that all acts of genocide are ended and those responsible for these acts are held accountable.”

During the first week of January, NGOs CODEPINK, World Beyond War, and RootsAction, launched a campaign throughout the US to urge countries to submit declarations of intervention in South Africa’s case against Israel. Activists traveled to 12 cities to visit UN missions, embassies, and consulates from Colombia, Pakistan, Bolivia, Bangladesh, the African Union, Ghana, Chile, Ethiopia, Turkey, Belize, Brazil, Denmark, France, Honduras, Ireland, Spain, Greece, Mexico, Italy, Haiti, Belgium, Kuwait, Malaysia, and Slovakia.

Lamis Deek, a Palestinian lawyer based in New York and who partnered with the Palestinian National Council, said, "This is the rare case where collective social pressure that urges governments to support South Africa’s case is a sharp turning point for Palestine… We need more countries to provide supportive interventions - and we need the court to feel the vigilant eye of the masses so that it can withstand what will be intense US political pressure on the court.

Suzanne Adely, Arab-American president of the National Lawyers Guild in New York, pointed out that “the growing global isolation of Israel, the US, and their European allies is an indication that this is a critical moment for popular movements to move their governments towards taking these steps and to be on the right side of history.”

In the meantime, South Africa has requested the ICJ to order provisional measures to protect Palestinians’ rights under the Genocide Convention from further irreparable harm caused by Israel. South Africa is also seeking immediate suspension of armed operations against Palestinians.

Public hearings on South Africa’s request for provisional measures are scheduled to be held on Jan. 11 and 12 at the ICJ, located in The Hague, Netherlands. The hearings will be broadcast live from 1:00 pm GMT on the court’s and the UN’s website. The court may order provisional measures within a week after the hearings.

South Africa cited eight claims in its request to support its case that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. These include:

  1. Killing 21,110 Palestinians in Gaza, including a large percentage of women and children, about 70 percent. (This number was the death toll when the lawsuit was filed at the time, the toll rose to 29,835, including missing persons stuck under the rubble with very little hope of survival.)

  2. Causing serious mental and physical harm to Palestinians in Gaza, including mutilation, psychological trauma, and inhumane treatment.

  3. Forcing the evacuation and displacement of about 85 percent of Palestinians in Gaza, including children, elderly, disabled, sick, and wounded. Israel also causes massive destruction of Palestinian homes, villages, towns, refugee camps, and entire areas, preventing a large proportion of Palestinians from returning to their homes.

  4. Causing hunger, famine, and drought to besieged Palestinians in Gaza by hindering sufficient humanitarian aid, cutting off sufficient food, water, fuel, and electricity, and destroying bakeries, mills, agricultural lands, and other means of production and livelihood.

  5. Failing to provide or restrictively providing sufficient clothing, shelter, hygiene, and sanitation to Palestinians in Gaza, including 1.9 million internally displaced persons, forcing them to live in dire conditions, while routinely targeting and destroying shelters and killing people who take refuge in them, including women, children, elderly, and disabled.

  6. Failing to provide or guarantee the provision of adequate medical care to Palestinians in Gaza, including medical needs resulting from other genocidal acts that cause serious physical harm. This is done through direct attacks on Palestinian hospitals, ambulances, and other healthcare facilities, killing Palestinian doctors, paramedics, and nurses (including the most qualified doctors in Gaza), and destroying or disabling the medical system in Gaza.

  7. Destroying Palestinian life in Gaza by destroying infrastructure, schools, universities, courts, public buildings, public records, libraries, stores, churches, mosques, roads, facilities, and other essential facilities for maintaining the lives of Palestinians as a group. Israel kills entire families, erases entire oral history, and kills prominent and distinguished individuals in the community.

  8. Imposing measures aimed at preventing Palestinian births in Gaza, including reproductive violence against Palestinian women, newborns, infants, and children.

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