South Africa bears ‘moral duty to act’ against genocide

Monday, January 29, 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his weekly newsletter to citizens to remind South Africans that as a signatory to the  Genocide Convention, government bears a responsibility to prevent acts of genocide wherever they occur.

This in the wake of South Africa’s approach to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to garner not only a ceasefire of Israel’s military barrage of Palestine but also to ask the court to find the Israeli government guilty of committing acts of genocide.

 “The Genocide Convention was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust, one of the worst crimes in modern history. Having witnessed the mass extermination of six million Jews and millions of other victims of the Nazis, the world came together to prevent such atrocities from occurring again. 

“As a signatory to that convention, South Africa carries a responsibility, like other States that are signatory to the convention, to prevent acts of genocide wherever they occur. It was in fulfilment of this responsibility and to prevent further civilian deaths and destruction that South Africa took this case to the court,” the President said.

The court ordered Israel, amongst others, to take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of genocide and to immediately ensure that Palestinians have access to basic services and humanitarian assistance.

The ICJ also found that it was “plausible” that Israel committed acts which violate the Genocide Convention.

President Ramaphosa explained that South Africa’s own painful past rooted in racism and apartheid lends credence to its unrelenting position on the war.

“As a nation that fought and defeated apartheid, we have a particular obligation to stand up for justice and fundamental human rights for all people, everywhere. It is this obligation that informed our application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to halt the violence unleashed by Israel on the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Refuting Anti-Semitism allegations

President Ramaphosa emphasised that critique of the Israeli government’s strikes on Gaza “is not directed at any religious or ethnic group, and cannot simply be dismissed as Anti-Semitism”.

“Nor can our case before the ICJ be said to diminish the enormity of the Holocaust.  On the contrary, it is the experience by humanity of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide that motivates our efforts to prevent anything of this nature from happening again.

“As government, we have been consistent about the application of international law. We have been equally consistent in condemning the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians on 7 October 2023 and in calling for the release of hostages still being held in Gaza.

“Yet, as we argued in our case before the ICJ, this attack on civilians in Israel cannot justify the subsequent acts committed by the Israeli military against the residents of Gaza,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said the court application to the ICJ is solely focused on “the Palestinian people; their suffering, the deprivation of their rights, and the denial of their right to self-determination”.

“Yet, in bringing this application, we are seeking to reinforce, protect and advance the rights of all people, at all times. The unprecedented onslaught against the people of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli military is an assault on all those who believe in justice, human rights and respect for international law.

“As South Africa, we have called these genocidal acts that the international community has a duty to halt and hold Israel accountable for. As South Africans who are committed to peace, justice and human rights, we are proud to stand on the right side of history,” he said.

The President called on South Africans to support government’s call for justice.

“A genocide is unfolding in the Gaza Strip and we have a moral duty to act. Let it be recorded in the history books that the democratic South Africa was not among those who shut their eyes or claimed they didn’t know.

“I call on all South Africans to rally behind our call for justice for the Palestinian people, and for a negotiated settlement that will bring about a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This cause is a reminder to us all that justice for only some is justice for none,” President Ramaphosa said. –