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South Africa v/s Israel At The International Court Of Justice

In the framework of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, South Africa's case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is a noteworthy legal and diplomatic move. An summary of the history, arguments made in favor of South Africa, and the ramifications of that decision to file a complaint against Israel in the International Court of Justice are given in this paper. It examines the main concerns at hand, including claims of transgressions of international law, especially those pertaining to Palestinian and human rights.

This paper also looks at the case's larger ramifications for international law, diplomacy, and efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian problem peacefully. This paper attempts to add to a fuller understanding of the complexities and obstacles of obtaining justice and accountability in the context of protracted conflicts by critically examining the legal and political aspects of this case.

Introduction And Background Of The Case
The destruction of Gaza and the growing death toll have sparked protests around the world, putting the long-standing problem front and center in international affairs.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dates back over a century to the Balfour Declaration, which was signed by Britain during World War I and promised to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. By late October 1917, British forces had wrested control of the region from the Ottoman Empire.

Jews started migrating in huge numbers to Palestine as a result of the Nazi movement in Europe, which intensified the exodus. In Palestine, the percentage of Jews rose from 6% to 33% between 1918 and 1947. The demographic shift worried the Palestinians, and tensions increased, which resulted in the 1936�1939 Palestinian uprising. Zionist groups kept up their advocacy for a Jewish homeland in Palestine in the meantime.

Palestinians were forced to leave when armed Zionist groups began attacking them. The political movement known as Zionism demanded the establishment of a Jewish state in the late 19th century.The issue was brought before the recently established United Nations while violence tore across Palestine. Resolution 181, passed by the UN in 1947, proposed for the division of Palestine into Arab and Jewish nations, giving the Jews ownership of around 55% of the territory. Fourty-five percent of the land went to the Arabs, and Jerusalem became an internationalized area.

There are presently two distinct populations in the city: the majority-Palestinian East Jerusalem and the mostly-Jewish West Jerusalem. Not recognized by the international world, Israel took control of both East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967.

For Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike, the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem is sacred ground. There is a mosque complex called Al-Aqsa, which is referred to as Temple Mount by Jews and al-Haram al-Sharif by Muslims. As a World Heritage Site, the UN named it in 1981.

Zionist forces ethnically removed more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in the years before Israel was founded in 1948. The Nakba, or calamity, is the name given to this huge migration. The 1967 Six-Day War resulted in the displacement of an additional 300,000 Palestinians. Although Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1980, the region is still regarded as occupied by the international world. The capital of the future state that the Palestinians envision is East Jerusalem.

The Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 with the goal of bringing about peace in five years, were a deal between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The two sides had never recognized one another before. Areas A, B, and C were the divisions made into the occupied West Bank by a second agreement in 1995. Following the Oslo Accords, Israel essentially retained sovereignty over the West Bank, offering the newly established Palestinian Authority only restricted rule over eighteen percent of the territory.

But when Jewish colonies known as Israeli settlements rose quickly on Palestinian territory in the West Bank, the Oslo Accords gradually came apart. Between 1993 and September 2023, the West Bank and East Jerusalem settlement populations increased from about 250,000 to as much as 700,000 people. Following the ascent to power of the Hamas organization in 2007, Israel placed an embargo on Gaza. Even now, the siege is still ongoing.

Additionally, Israel controls East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which the Palestinians desire to be a component of their future state. Following a surprise strike by Hamas within Israel, Israel shut off the Gaza Strip's supply of petroleum, food, water, and power on October 9 and enforced a complete embargo.

What Is South Africa Vs. Israel Case?
South Africa's Allegations: Many Palestinians, including children, have been killed in Gaza; their homes have been destroyed; and Israeli soldiers have driven them from their homes.
It also consists of an embargo on the strip's access to food, water, and medical care; steps are implemented to prevent Palestinian births by destroying vital health services that are necessary for expectant mothers and their unborn children to survive.

South Africa's Immediate Demand: Through the use of "provisional measures," which are effectively emergency orders that may be implemented even before the main case begins, South Africa is seeking that the ICJ act quickly to stop Israel from committing more crimes in the strip. The argument put up is that temporary measures are required in order to safeguard the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention from additional, severe, and irreversible harm, which is still being committed with impunity.

ISRAEL'S Stand: Israel, which has criticized South Africa for initiating the lawsuit, has committed to defend itself in court. The case, according to Israeli officials, is "preposterous" and amounts to a "blood libel." Israel will boldly submit its case for exercising self-defense in accordance with our most fundamental right under international humanitarian law, arguing that the death of over 30,000 people in Gaza was done in self-defense.

Stand of International Community: South Africa's lawsuit has received support from several nations and institutions. Among them are members of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), Namibia, Pakistan, Bolivia, the Maldives, Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan, and Colombia. While the US, Israel's biggest ally and source of weaponry, has remained mute, the European Union has offered assistance, saying that "Israel must prevent civilian harm and investigate allegations of humanitarian crimes." France has threatened to not comply if Israel is found guilty of genocide, and both the UK and France are against the case.

What Is Genocide Convention?
The 1948 United Nations General Assembly enacted the international treaty known as the Genocide Convention, formerly known as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It states that genocide is a crime that is sanctioned by international law.

The treaty defines genocide as any of the following crimes carried out with the intention of eradicating a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, either whole or in part:
  1. Killing members of the group.
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harms to members of the group.
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Whether genocide is perpetrated during a period of peace or conflict, the agreement declares it to be illegal under international law. Additionally, it requires member governments to stop and punish genocide.

Numerous nations have accepted the Genocide Convention, which is seen as a crucial tool for both preventing and punishing the crime of genocide.

What Is International Court Of Justice?
The UN Charter created the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1945, making it the main court system within the UN. Its functions include resolving legal disputes between nations and offering advisory views on legal matters presented to it by specialized agencies and recognized UN bodies. It is situated in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Composition and Jurisdiction: The fifteen judges that make up the International Court of Justice are chosen for nine-year periods by the UN Security Council and General Assembly. Its authority stems from the assent of the disputing states, which may be granted in one of two ways: by consenting, in advance of the court's action, to refer a particular matter to the ICJ through a special agreement (compromis). By voluntarily granting the ICJ universal jurisdiction, the state consents to having its future conflicts handled by the court unless it specifically withholds its accede.
  • Advisory Function: In addition, the ICJ offers advisory opinions on legal matters that are presented to it by specialized agencies and recognized UN bodies. Though advisory in nature and not legally obligatory, these judgments are widely recognized and have considerable weight in the field of international law.
  • Legal Basis and Decisions: International law, which includes customary international law, treaties, conventions, and basic legal concepts accepted by civilized states, serves as the foundation for the ICJ's rulings. Though there are few avenues for reconsideration or interpretation, its rulings are final and enforceable against the parties to a dispute.
  • Enforcement and Limitations: Although the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are legally enforceable, governments' voluntary cooperation makes enforcement difficult. Since the ICJ lacks a mechanism of its own for enforcing its rulings, Chapter VII of the UN Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to take action in the form of sanctions or other measures.
  • Significance and Criticism: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is vital to the amicable resolution of international conflicts and advances the body of international law. However, issues with state sovereignty and political concerns, the voluntary nature of state agreement to its authority, and the absence of a direct enforcement mechanism may restrict its efficacy.

In conclusion, the International Court of Justice, which functions within the bounds of international law and the United Nations, is a crucial institution for the amicable resolution of international conflicts.

Latest Revisions On South Africa Vs Israel
According to Reuters, a government official confirmed that South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor had traveled to The Hague to see the court's ruling. Instead of ruling on the central issue of whether Israel is committing genocide, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will examine potential emergency measures that South Africa has requested be used to curb Israel's conduct on Friday. South Africa requested the International Court of Justice, often known as the World Court, to immediately halt Israel's catastrophic military operation in the Palestinian enclave during two days of proceedings earlier in January.

Nine injunctions were filed with the court by South Africa. Among them are those for an order directing Israel to cease all military activities within Gaza and another for Israel to assist, not obstruct, the entry of humanitarian supplies into Gaza. The court may design the interim remedies it thinks most suitable, but it is not required to adopt precisely the steps that South Africa asked. These steps are meant to stop a conflict from growing worse while the court considers the entire case, which may take many years.

The team of leading legal counsel for each state presents oral arguments and counterarguments during the arduous ICJ deliberations, which begin with comprehensive written submissions. A decision in this matter may take three or four years, according to experts. Provisional remedies might be approved in the meantime if South Africa took sufficient steps to demonstrate the validity of its claims under the genocide treaty and the fact that the Palestinian population in Gaza is in actual danger of suffering irreversible harm.

Becker predicted that the court will certainly comment on Israel's military action at Friday's public session, but he did not think the court would put an end to the Israeli assault.

The legal expert and lecturer at Trinity College in Dublin stated, "I'm not convinced that they will be willing to go as far as South Africa has asked them to go-the suspension of military activities." He continued by saying that the International Court of Justice will probably uphold the stance taken by the United Nations in its resolution from December and give Israel instructions to make sure that any military action is carried out in compliance with international law and that the distribution of humanitarian supplies is not impeded. The ICJ's decisions are final and enforceable without the need for an appeal, yet the court is unable to implement them. It is uncertain if Israel will comply if it granted any or all of South Africa's eight requests for so-called interim measures.

Israel called the accusations of genocide "grossly distorted" and asserted its right to self-defense against Hamas, the Palestinian organization that launched an unexpected onslaught on the country on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,139 people and the kidnapping of almost 240 more, according to Israeli officials. Israel claims that it is not targeting people in Gaza, but rather Hamas. According to Palestinian officials in Gaza, since October 2023, the Israeli assault has killed over 30,000 individuals, the most of whom were women and children.

Although Israel frequently disavows UN investigations and international courts, claiming they are biased and unjust, the government did send a top legal team for two days of hearings earlier in January.

The nation's reputation abroad would suffer greatly from any court decision to stop activities. The United States, Israel's biggest ally and supplier of armaments, has offered assistance; the European Union has been mute on the issue.

Additional Updates
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been petitioned by South Africa to impose further emergency measures on Israel because to its Gaza war, according to the court. South Africa petitioned the court to order that all parties cease hostilities and release all hostages and detainees, citing the threat of famine affecting Palestinians in Gaza.

The South African presidency cautioned that the people of Gaza cannot wait in a statement released on Wednesday. "A complete famine is now a real possibility. The court stated that in order to avert the impending catastrophe, it must take prompt action to guarantee the protection of the rights it has determined are in jeopardy under the Genocide Convention.

Additionally, South Africa requested that Israel adopt "immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address famine and starvation" in Gaza, asking the court to rule on this matter. It stated that due to the "extreme urgency of the situation," the International Court of Justice, often known as the World Court, should adopt these actions without holding further hearings.

Inaction on the part of the UN might "almost certainly" result in widespread hunger in the Gaza Strip. As the enclave has been under Israeli siege and assault since October, aid organizations have pointed the finger at military activities, insecurity, and significant barriers to the delivery of necessary supplies for the food scarcity there. According to health officials in Gaza, the five-month conflict has claimed the lives of almost 30,000 individuals in the strip. Palestinian authorities claim that since Israel began its attack, at least 20 people have perished in Gaza from famine and malnourishment.

Israel rejected South Africa's plea to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza in response to an impending famine on March 18, 2024, calling it "morally repugnant" and asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) not to issue emergency directives. As evidenced by the acts it has taken and is taking in Gaza, Israel stated in a legal document submitted to the highest court of the United Nations on Monday that it "has real concern for the humanitarian situation and innocent lives.

Defense attorneys for Israel refuted claims that the besieged enclave, where tens of thousands of Palestinians have died and starvation is on the rise, is being intentionally caused to suffer humanitarian hardship. They said that South Africa was abusing the process by repeatedly requesting more measures.

According to the document, the claims made by South Africa in its March 6 request for additional measures are "morally repugnant, wholly unfounded in fact and law, and represent an abuse both of the Genocide Convention and of the court itself." Following the October 7 Hamas strikes on Israel, South Africa is continuing to accuse Israel of state-led genocide in Gaza. This exchange between the parties is a part of that ongoing legal action.

Israel was given an injunction in January by the International Court of Justice (ICJ, often called the World Court) to ensure that Israeli troops do not perform any acts that could be considered violations of the Genocide Convention against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel called the accusation of genocide "baseless." Essential help to Gaza's 2.3 million residents is reportedly being severely curtailed, according to relief agencies.

Since October 7, Israel has sealed off Gaza and stopped the inflow of desperately needed gasoline. In order to prevent a problem from getting worse until the International Court of Justice (ICJ) can hear the entire case-a procedure that typically takes several years-emergency measures function as temporary injunctions.

On the same day that the UN World Food Programme said that "famine is imminent" in northern Gaza, Israel released their reaction. According to the agency, roughly half of Gaza's population might become very hungry if Israel's attack were to intensify any more, with 70% of the remaining population already suffering from catastrophic hunger.

Health officials in Gaza estimate that the more than five-month offensive has killed close to 32,000 Palestinians in the strip. On October 7, Hamas strikes in southern Israel claimed 1,139 more lives. Israel then declared war on Gaza.

According to Palestinian officials, since Israel started its attack on Gaza, at least 20 people have perished from famine and malnourishment. Josep Borrell, the senior diplomat for the European Union, declared on Monday that "starvation is used as a weapon of war" and that the looming famine in Gaza was "entirely man-made." "Trucks have halted. "People are dying as a result of the artificial closure of land crossings," he claimed.

Pretoria has petitioned the International Court of Justice twice, the second time in support of South Africa's plea. Its initial request, made in February, to put pressure on Israel to stop an offensive against Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, was turned down.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) case that South Africa filed against Israel has spurred a heated global discussion. The case has a complicated legal background because it centers on claims that Israel committed genocide in Gaza during its war operations. The result is important for both easing the Gaza conflict and serving as a litmus test for the "rules-based international order." The opinions expressed about the international legal system will be significantly shaped by the rulings rendered by the ICJ in the upcoming months.

Written By: Zoya Khan, 3rd Year BA LLB(H) Amity University Noida

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