South Africa welcomes ICJ ruling on Israel action in Rafah

Sunday, May 26, 2024

South Africa has welcomed the order handed down by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday by 13 votes to 2, ordering Israel to immediately halt its military operation.

According to the Presidency, the court ordered Israel to halt any other actions in Rafah “which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

“The court further ordered Israel to maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance and to take effective measures to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by competent organs of the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide.

“In terms of the court order, Israel has to submit a report to the court on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month,” said the Presidency in a statement.

Earlier this month, South Africa had approached the ICJ seeking an order – according to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) – “for the protection of the Palestinian people in Gaza from grave and irreparable violations of their rights under the Genocide Convention, as a result of Israel’s ongoing military assault on Rafah”.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated on 7 October 2023 when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel and Israel’s retaliatory bombardment on Palestine – particularly in Gaza.

By 24 May at least Palestinians had been killed and at least 80 000 injured, 1.7 million have been displaced, often multiple times, with 900 000 displaced in the last two weeks alone.

The Presidency said Palestinians continue to die of starvation, many of them children, and hundreds of thousands are at imminent threat of death because a deliberate decision has been taken by Israel to starve Palestinians by denying them food.

“The court, whose powers are tied to the provisions of the Genocide Convention and cannot be exercised against ‘mere’ war crimes or human rights violations, has done what it considers it can do to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people in Gaza as a group and their protection from further harm.

“South Africa remains concerned that the United Nations Security Council has so far not succeeded in stopping the human suffering,” said the Presidency.

President Ramaphosa said South Africa called on all State Parties to observe the prescripts of international law, which obliged them to reconsider their relations with Israel following the court findings.

“Under international law, Israel is obliged to implement the court’s order, as well as the previous orders of 26 January (as reaffirmed by the court on 16 February) and 28 March. Similarly under international law, the prohibition on genocide is a peremptory norm from which no derogation is permitted, for any reason whatsoever.”

Furthermore, the President expressed South Africa’s “grave concern” for relief efforts unable to reach Gaza.

“We are gravely concerned that Israel has restricted necessary levels of aid from entering Gaza and has systematically targeted aid and aid infrastructure within Gaza.

“This case is thus focused on the ordinary Palestinians in Gaza who are now facing their seventh month of suffering through collective punishment for something for which they have no individual responsibility,” President Ramaphosa said.

Meanwhile, Director General DIRCO, Zane Dangor said South Africa welcomed the “ground breaking” court ruling which he added is a “de facto calling for a ceasefire” in the area.

“This order is ground breaking as it is the first time that explicit mention is made for Israel to halt its military action in any area of Gaza, this time specifically in Rafah. While legally the court cannot use the term ceasefire…this is de facto calling for a ceasefire. It is ordering the major party in this conflict to end its belligerent action against the people of Palestine.

“This is a ground breaking decision by the court. The court has also ordered Israel to ensure that it allows access to investigators appointed by competent orders of the UN [United Nations] to investigate actions that would be tantamount to genocide in the whole of Gaza.

“This is important because it allows for independent researchers to go into areas that journalists have been prohibited from, in fact journalists have been killed. It allows those of us engaging in the legal action to have independent verified UN experts doing a lot of the investigations.

“We hope that the UN Security Council takes note of this. We will be approaching the UN Security Council with this order so that they can effect this part of it,” Dangor said. –