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South Africa takes Israel to the ICJ over Gaza attrocities

South Africa takes Israel to the ICJ over Gaza attrocities

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is also referred to as “the World Court”, was established in 1920 and was then “the Permanent Court of International Justice” (PCIJ), a creation of the League of Nations, which itself is the predecessor of the United Nations (UN). In 1945, precisely, the UN Charter renamed the institution International Court of Justice (ICJ). The body is constituted of 15 judges elected for a nine-year term. Those judges are selected by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and the Security Council. The ICJ is the main judicial organ of the UN and its role is twofold: to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by member states and to give opinions on legal questions that are referred to it. The link between the ICJ and the Hague lies in the fact that the various disputes were settled during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century through a medium called “the Hague Conventions”. The Hague in the Netherlands is currently the seat of the court.

The court, therefore, represents a key part of international law and records reveal that it has handled 191 cases. Some of the cases are the following: The Corfu Channel Case, filed in 1947 by the United Kingdom against the People’s Republic of Albania, around the issue of state responsibility for damages at sea; the Fisheries Case of 1951 was the culmination of a feud between the UK and Norway, over the exact demarcations of the Norwegian waters and the High Seas for fishing purposes. The Frontier Dispute of 1986 was the dispute between Burkina Faso and the Republic of Mali over a territory between the two countries. In 2003, the case dubbed “Oil Platforms” was a contention between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the US because the US Navy allegedly destroyed three Iranian oil platforms. More recently, in 2023, in the “Certain Iranian Assets Case”, Iran requested the unfreezing and return of two billion USD worth of assets that Iran saw to be hers.

The ICJ has a good reputation because of its remarkable and consistent jurisprudence and its independence from political conflicts. That reputation also lies in the fact that it is generally said that since its inception, the court played a fundamental role in the pacific resolution and prevention of disputes between states. But these days, the brilliant reputation of the ICJ is in jeopardy, it is about to be changed and for the first time, a case was brought to the court and although no judgment has yet been passed, one of the parties is asking the court to ignore the accusations. These nations are Israel and South Africa. Indeed, on October 7, last year, the Hamas-led Palestinian militant groups launched an attack against Israeli positions and the casualties were quite sizable:1,139 people, most of whom were Israeli, were killed. That started what some media outlets call “the most significant military escalation in the region, since the Yom Kippur War” or the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, 50 years ago. Israel’s reaction to the attack by Hamas was swift and brutal. The Hamas militants on Israeli land were “cleared”, aerial bombardments and land operations ravaged the lives of Palestinians. International society witnessed one of the most cruel gestures in world history: newborn babies were rescued from hospitals on the Gaza strip and flown to Egypt where there received treatment and some were in incubators. Nothing can explain this level of violence against babies.

Last December, South Africa launched a case against Israel, accusing the country of subjecting Palestinians to a genocide in its military campaign in Gaza. This does not come as a surprise, when one hears that such a complaint was lodged by south Africa, a country which is very sensitive to violence and discrimination based on race, religion and other “insignificant” features. The violence meted out to the inhabitants of the Gaza strip reminds many people of the violence that Blacks, and Colored people suffered in the hands of White oppressors, during the apartheid era in South Africa. Israel’s reaction continues to follow the insensitive and bloodthirsty path, since the country is bent on annihilating Hamas regardless of the consequences or collateral damages. So, Israel, allegedly, responded to those “allegations” with disgust and called the accusations a “blood libel” which should be rejected by the ICJ.

The Achilles heel of the ICJ is its inability to enforce judgements and that causes delays in its missions of arbitration. That might explain South Africa’s request for a cease fire, declared by the ICJ in the next few days. The treatment of the Palestinians on the Gaza strip is equated to a genocide by several analysts who buttress their judgement or opinion with the following derogatory comments made by high Israeli military officials. The Defence Minister Yoav Gallant referred to Palestinians as “human animals”. One general of the Israeli army is known to have made a comment which is in line with that of the minister and sticks to the animalization of Palestinians. The army general states that “human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity, and no water in Gaza. There will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell”.

Africa’s involvement in this conflict has seen the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) taking in Palestinians, away from the war zone. Israel is said to have held secret talks with the authorities of the DRC to accommodate Palestinians since literally no land will be left for them [Palestinians] to farm and build houses on. On the other hand, Rwanda is refuting information that states that the country is in favour of taking in Palestinians. Rwanda calls that a “disinformation” emanating from Israeli media.

No country remains indifferent to the carnage against Palestinians on the Gaza strip. While some nations contend that Israel is carrying out a crime similar to antisemitism in many ways, others might secretly be in support of the Israeli camp and some nations seem to sit on the fence like the USA who equip the Israeli Army with the most recent and sophisticated weapons, while  their president  and many envoys speak the language of peace in this conflict.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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