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Israel/OPT: today's ICJ ruling is a warning that all states must act to prevent genocide

The court making its first ruling in South Africa's genocide case in January © ANP/AFP via Getty Images

All third countries have a duty to press Israel to comply with International Court of Justice’s call to halt military operations in Rafah

A ceasefire remains the most effective means to alleviate the mass suffering of civilians in Gaza

‘This order is no longer a “wake-up call” to all states, but a further unequivocal affirmation of their legal duty to prevent genocide’ - Heba Morayef

Amnesty International has welcomed today’s ruling by the International Court of Justice which ordered Israel to immediately halt military operations in the governorate of Rafah following South Africa’s application for additional provisional measures in its genocide case.

The court also ordered Israel to allow unimpeded access for fact-finding missions, UN commissions of inquiry, investigators and journalists to preserve evidence and record conditions on the ground in Gaza, as well as to independently and impartially investigate possible violations of the Genocide Convention.

In its response, Amnesty emphasised that all third-party states have a legal duty to prevent genocide, meaning they themselves must take action to ensure that the ICJ’s provisional measures are implemented.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said

“With this order the International Court of Justice - the UN’s principal court - has made it crystal clear: the Israeli authorities must completely halt military operations in Rafah, as any ongoing military action could constitute an underlying act of genocide.

“Unequivocally, the ground incursion and the associated mass forced displacement it has caused pose further irreparable risk to the rights of the Palestinian people protected under the Genocide Convention and further threaten their physical destruction in whole or in part.

“Significantly, the court exposed the charade of ‘safe zones’ that the Israeli authorities have been using to put a veneer of legality on the operations.

“The areas to which Israel has forced people to ‘evacuate’, especially al-Mawasi, are desperately unequipped to host them and lack the most basic standards of safe and dignified living conditions, including necessary amounts of water, sanitation, food, medicine and shelter.

“Israel’s actions, including the closure of the Rafah border crossing on 7 May, show that far from protecting civilians in Gaza its forces have repeatedly pursued cruel and inhumane policies and shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinians facing a real risk of genocide.

“Given previous orders, this order is no longer a ‘wake-up call’ to all states, but a further unequivocal affirmation of their legal duty to prevent genocide which requires them to ensure that all of the ICJ’s provisional measures are duly implemented.

“Allies of Israel must use any capacity they have to influence Israel’s actions to halt the Rafah ground operations and push for an immediate and sustained ceasefire by all parties.

“A ceasefire remains the most effective means to alleviate mass suffering of civilians and ensure the ICJ measures - including its call for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups - can truly be implemented to prevent genocide against Palestinians.

“The court has spoken and it is time for Israel and all states to act in line with their obligations in the Genocide Convention. Israel must immediately halt its ground operations in Rafah - and indeed halt military operations in all of Gaza - and ensure unfettered access for humanitarian aid and services.”

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