Israel/OPT: Israel must comply with today's ICJ ruling

Top UN court orders six provisional measures against Israel over Gaza genocide claim

Case comes after shockingly-high civilian death toll, the denial of humanitarian aid and dehumanising rhetoric from Israeli officials 

‘Today’s decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide’ - Agnès Callamard

Today’s decision by the International Court of Justice to order provisional measures in response to South Africa’s genocide case against Israel is an important step that could help protect the Palestinian people in the occupied Gaza Strip from further suffering and irreparable harm, said Amnesty International today.

The ruling issued by the ICJ ordered six provisional measures, including for Israel to refrain from acts under the Genocide Convention, prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to genocide, and take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza. 

Crucially, the court also ordered Israel to preserve evidence of genocide and to submit a report to the court within one month of all measures taken in line with its order.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“Today’s decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide and protecting all victims of atrocity crimes. 

“It sends a clear message that the world will not stand by in silence as Israel pursues a ruthless military campaign to decimate the population of the Gaza Strip and unleash death, horror and suffering against Palestinians on an unprecedented scale.

“Alarming signs of genocide in Gaza, and Israel’s flagrant disregard for international law highlight the urgent need for effective, unified pressure on Israel to stop its onslaught against Palestinians. 

“An immediate ceasefire by all parties remains essential and - although not ordered by the Court - is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering.

“The stakes could not be higher - the ICJ’s provisional measures indicate that in the court’s view the survival of Palestinians in Gaza is at risk. 

“The Israeli government must comply with the ICJ’s ruling immediately. 

“All states - including those who were critical of or opposed South Africa’s submission of the genocide case - have a clear duty to ensure these measures are implemented. 

“World leaders from the USA, UK, Germany and other EU states must signal their respect for the court’s legally-binding decision and do everything in their power to uphold their obligation to prevent genocide. Failure to do so would be a grave blow to the credibility and trust in the international legal order.”

All countries must also take urgent steps to prevent ongoing international crimes, said Amnesty, including by imposing a comprehensive arms embargo against Israel and Palestinian armed groups. 

Warning signs

Amnesty has warned of the risk of genocide in Gaza due to the shockingly-high death toll among Palestinians, the widespread destruction caused by Israel’s relentless bombardment, and the deliberate denial of humanitarian aid as part of the ongoing illegal blockade - which are all inflicting horrifying levels of suffering on Gaza’s civilian population. Other warning signs include the increase in racist and dehumanising rhetoric by some Israeli government officials - including Benjamin Netanyahu - and Israel’s history of oppressing and discriminating against Palestinians under its system of apartheid. In the face of a serious risk of genocide, all countries have an obligation under international law to act to prevent the commission of genocide. 

More than 26,000 Palestinians - mostly civilians - have been killed in Israel’s unrelenting bombardment of Gaza, with some 10,000 people believed to be still missing under the rubble. At least 1.8 million Palestinians have been internally displaced and are deprived of access to adequate food, water, shelter, sanitation or medical assistance.  

Amnesty is calling on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups to immediately suspend all military operations in Gaza. Israel must lift its illegal and inhuman siege, and allow the unhindered and unconditional flow of desperately-needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians, who are suffering from a deliberately engineered famine. We urge Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups to release all remaining civilian hostages. 

International Court of Justice case

On 29 December 2023, South Africa brought a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide over allegations of genocide against the Palestinian people in the wake of the attacks on 7 October by Hamas and other armed groups in which nearly 1,200 people - mostly civilians - in Israel were killed and some 240 were taken hostage. Hearings on South Africa’s request for provisional measures took place in The Hague on 11 and 12 January. The 84-page filing by South Africa accused Israel of acts and omissions “genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent … to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group”.

The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It does not pursue individual criminal responsibility, rather the court’s role is to settle - in accordance with international law - legal disputes submitted to it by national governments, including those relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the Genocide Convention and the responsibility of a country for genocide. Article 94 of the UN Charter provides that judgments of the International Court of Justice are binding on the parties to the dispute and that, if they are not implemented, then recourse is to be had to the Security Council, which may make recommendations or decide upon measures to be taken to give effect to the judgment.

Implications for UK

Commenting on today’s ruling and the implications for the UK, Karla McLaren, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Government Affairs, said the UK government “now needs to start taking the extremely grave issue of potential genocide against the Palestinian people seriously”. Go here for the full statement on the UK’s responsibilities in relation to the issue.

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