South Africa is charging the government of Israel with violation of the treaty on the prevention of genocide, what is the ICJ and will anyone be held accountable for the crime of the Court finds in favor of South Africa?
South Africa sues Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), On charges of genocide in Gaza; What evidence must South Africa present and what are the possible outcomes?The International Court of Justice is an international organization established to promote peace in the world. As an international judicial body, it was established under the Charter of the United Nations to adjudicate disputes among nation-states, not individuals. For this reason, it is also called the World Court. Its role is to settle international disputes presented to it by states, within the framework of what are called “controversial issues,” according to of international law, with the provision of advisory opinions on legal matters referred to it by United Nations organs and authorized international agencies. With this being the structure, the Court is essentially a civil court, not a criminal court, and even this qualification is still misleading, since its role is limited to adjudicating cases among nation-states, that is governments, not individuals. This makes the ICJ fundamentally different from the International Criminal Court, which is a permanent independent organization that adjudicates human rights crimes that fall within four categories, aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. ICC tried individual persons, not states.
What legal facts is South Africa presenting in this case?The documents provided by South Africa highlight few violations, though the list might change since this is an ongoing event. There is the section related to genocidal intent by senior Israeli officials and acts of genocide, and we find that South Africa filed 4 different charges, which are:
- The first charge: committing genocide, as more than 30,000 Palestinians were killed, which means doubling the Srebrenica massacre in which 7,000 Muslims were killed in Bosnia.
- The second charge: causing serious physical or mental harm. The number of wounded in the Gaza Strip exceeded 50,000 Palestinians. As for psychological suffering, anyone can turn on any media source - and Al Jazeera in particular - to see the extent of the suffering.
- The third charge: Intentionally subjecting individuals to living conditions that completely or partially destroy them. We saw this clearly when an Israeli minister announced that food, water, medical supplies, and fuel were being denied to residents of the Gaza Strip, or when another official said that Gaza should be turned into the Auschwitz concentration camp.
- The fourth charge: imposing measures aimed at preventing births, as hospitals were destroyed, doctors were killed, and ambulances were deliberately targeted by the Zionists in a place where there were tens of thousands of pregnant Palestinian women.
Is the US worried about this case, or should the US worry about this case?If the court finds in favor of South Africa, a genocide was committed in Gaza, and since US government has been providing Israel with the weapons and the political and diplomatic support to enable Israel to commit these acts, the US government could be considered as aiding and abetting genocide against the Palestinian people, and could be found guilty under Article 3E of the Genocide Convention, which prohibits complicity and genocide, as well as violating the US Government's own convention and the Genocide Convention Implementation Act.
What are Israel's legal arguments?Israel’s main argument is self-defense. However, the International Court has previously rejected that argument, saying that Israel is the belligerent occupier of the West Bank, and therefore East Jerusalem and Gaza, and has no right to self-defense under international law or Article 51 of the United Nations Charter against Occupied people.
Will or can the International Court’s decision force Israel to stop killing Palestinians?The ruling will be binding upon Israel. However, Israel is unlikely to stop because of the ruling alone. The become enforceable is it is referred to the United Nations Security Council for implementation, and the UNSC votes to adopt a resolution that will enforce the ruling. Based on US officials’ statements, the US is likely to veto any UNSC resolution. When that happens, then South Africa can take the matter to the UN General Assembly for implementation under the “Uniting for Peace” resolution. Should this happen, it would bring dire consequences for Israel, because the UN General Assembly could suspend participation in all of Israel's activities, and the precedent for this scenario is what the UNGA did over the years with the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa. Moreover, the United Nations General Assembly could establish an “international criminal court for Israel” like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, as a subsidiary body under Article 22 of the United Nations Charter. The ruling of the ICJ will not result in the arrest and imprisonment of any person because, as stated earlier, this Court adjudicates cases among nation-states and its parties are governments not persons. Also, while a ruling by the ICJ might lack enforcement given the veto power of the US that could prevent the UNSC action, a ruling against Israel in this case will, nonetheless set in motion a series of other important events with consequential outcomes.