South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in international court

On January 11, proceedings against Israel began at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Genocide is the charge. What does this term mean, what examples are there in history and why is South Africa making this accusation?

What does the word genocide mean?

The term “genocide” was coined in 1943 by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin to describe the systematic killing of Jews by the National Socialists. According to the United Nations Convention, genocide or genocide occurs when any of the following acts are committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. According to the convention, anyone commits intentional genocide

  1. kills team members,

  2. causing serious physical or mental harm to group members (…),

  3. Places the group under living conditions that may bring about total or partial physical destruction,

  4. Measures prescribed to prevent intra-group births,

  5. The group's children were forcibly transferred to another group (…)”.

The Convention criminalizes the commission of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and making incitements to commit genocide. Attempting to commit genocide and participating in genocide are punishable.

The prohibition of genocide is a mandatory rule of international law.

Austria ratified the convention on March 19, 1958.

Has Israel ratified the Genocide Convention?

Both Israel and its accuser, the Republic of South Africa, have ratified the Genocide Convention. It has been in force in Israel since March 9, 1950, and South Africa joined on December 10, 1998.

To which court must Israel answer?

South Africa filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. It is a court of the United Nations; It is not identical to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The International Criminal Court can only judge individuals, the International Court of Justice can punish nations.

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How binding are the judgments of the International Court of Justice?

The International Court of Justice has no means of enforcing its judgments. However, they carry great moral weight. Refusal to submit to the judgment of the International Court of Justice is tantamount to placing oneself outside the community of states. For example, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the International Court of Justice ordered Russia to withdraw. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to follow this ruling.

What interest does South Africa pursue?

South Africa, which filed a lawsuit against Israel at the end of 2023, feels ideologically aligned with the Palestinians. Official South Africa draws a parallel between its own anti-apartheid struggle and the Palestinian liberation struggle. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former South African President Nelson Mandela said in 1997: “We are well aware that our freedom will not be complete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Since the end of apartheid, support for the Palestinians has been in part. South African Foreign Policy.

What charges does South Africa face?

According to Human Rights Watch, South Africa accuses Israel of acting in the Gaza war in ways that meet the criteria for genocide. These allegations include indiscriminate violence, population displacement and access to food, clothing, water, humanitarian aid and safe havens. The prosecution has accused Israel of mass killing Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, inflicting severe physical and psychological harm on them, and taking steps to prevent the birth of Palestinian children. South Africa cited statements by Israeli politicians, such as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant: “We will impose a complete blockade around Gaza City. No electricity, no food, no water, no fuel. Everything will be locked. We are fighting against human animals and we are acting accordingly.” Israel's operation against Hamas is a “Gaza Nakba” South Africa also relies on the statement of Israeli Agriculture Minister Avi Tafar who responded in an interview: ” Gaza Nakba 2023 – Israel's funding that said Israel should support the voluntary withdrawal of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. Minister Bezalel Smodrich expressed a similar opinion.

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According to Human Rights Watch, South Africa frames its complaint against the broader backdrop of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, its occupation of the Palestinian territories and its 16-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Does South Africa's case stand a chance?

Most international legal experts give little leeway to South Africa's case. For example, international law expert Oliver Harry Gerson argues that Israel's military actions do not meet the requirements for genocide. International law expert Stephen Dalmon even turns the tables: since the perpetrators' intent to destroy a particular group in whole or in part is sufficient for the crime of genocide, he sees the Hamas attack on Israel as genocide: “One can make the case that this mass killing is genocide with good reason. Because Hamas is Jewish. It wants to destroy people as a whole,” he said.

How long does the process take?

The process is sure to take a long time. That will suffice for the time being for South Africa's concerns UN judges have concluded that Israel is likely to commit genocide. In this case, the court could rule within weeks on South Africa's urgent application to allow full humanitarian aid and end the violence.

What are examples of genocide in history?

The Shoah and the Sindhi and Roma genocide and the Herero and Nama genocide by National Socialist Germany are generally recognized as genocides. German colonial power in the colony of German South West Africa (1904-1908), Genocide of Armenians and Syrian Christians in the Ottoman Empire (from 1915), Genocide by Fascist Italy against the Arab tribes in Cyrenaica (1929-1934), by the Pakistani army and its collaborators in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) against the Hindus there (1971-1972), the genocide of the majority Tutsi in Burundi against the Hutu minority. (1965, 1972), the Srebrenica massacre of Muslim Bosnians by Bosnian Serbs and Serbian paramilitaries (1995), the genocide of the Yazidis by the Islamic State (2014-2017) and the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

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