SA appeals to top UN court in Israel-Palestine matter

Friday, January 12, 2024

Justice and Correctional Services Minister, Ronald Lamola, fears that without the intervention of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Palestinians will be destroyed. 

This was as South Africa approached the ICJ, under the Genocide Convention, for acts committed by Israel in the context of its attacks on Gaza. 

He said the Israeli actions were reminiscent of the Rwandan genocide 30 years ago. 

“We are here, on behalf of South Africa and the global community, to seek justice for the victims, particularly children, women, and the elderly. We believe that without the intervention of this court, of the international community, we will see the total destruction of the Palestinian people.

“Remaining silent in the efface of this, in and of itself, would be a gross violation of international law,” he pleaded.

The Minister was addressing the media on Thursday outside the ICJ. South Africa presented its genocide case against Israel at the ICJ in The Hague, Netherlands.

“We are asking the court to intervene and stop the ongoing massacre in Gaza. Today, it is a common cause that the Rwandan genocide could have been prevented.

“Former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, expressed this regret when he said, ‘The international community failed Rwanda, and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow’.

“Let us not have to live with the same regret when it comes to Palestine.” 

Israel, which South Africa is accusing of genocide, was on Friday on the floor in a legal battle to defend itself at the top United Nations (UN) court. 

“The government of the Republic of South Africa, led by His Excellency President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, entrusted me with representing its commitment to the rule of just law, a universal respect for human rights, and specifically the right of the Palestinian people to sovereignty, to peace, to life.”

Finding a solution

South Africa, added the Minister, has supported various resolutions of the UN and other international solutions to support a just and lasting solution that will bring peace to Palestinians and Israelis.

This is in addition to President Ramaphosa calling for a ceasefire and humanitarian interventions on numerous occasions. 

“The world has watched in horror as Palestinian men, women and children were slaughtered, blown up, buried alive under the rubble of their homes, left to die painful deaths in un-resourced hospitals, resulting in over 23 000 deaths,” he added. 

This, according to the Minister, was done through the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, water treatment plants and other public infrastructure. 

“Sadly, the world has not succeeded in stopping the genocide that is currently unfolding in Gaza.

“The international community has largely remained passive in response to these atrocities.”

He also cited Secretary-General António Guterres who last year called on the world to “press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and unite in a call for a full humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants”.

“This plea for ubuntu, a plea for the humanity of the international community to prevail was simply ignored. Israel’s institutional impunity was reinforced.” 


Lamola also explained that South Africa has also asked the ICJ for provisional measures which include an immediate suspension of Israeli military operations in and against Gaza.

“The philosophy of ubuntu means ‘humanity’ and is reflected in the idea that we affirm our humanity when we affirm the humanity of others.

“It has played a major role in the forging of a South African national consciousness and the process of its democratic transformation and nation building.” 

He also reflected on the country’s history of repression and violence, human rights abuses, apartheid as a crime against humanity, discrimination and distrust between people born on the same soil. 

“This history enjoins us to stand in principle in solidarity with the people of Palestine.”

He is of the view that the esteemed institution has the opportunity to not only reaffirm but also strengthen humanity's commitment to justice.

“This can be achieved by infusing the Genocide Convention with vibrancy and bringing it to life with action and meaning.

“We trust that, after hearing us presenting the facts, the legal arguments, the truth, the court will grant them the protection they seek.” –