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ICJ orders provisional measures against Israel in case brought by South Africa under the genocide convention

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The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has found that Israel’s military actions in and against Gaza are plausibly genocidal.

Ruling on 26 January 2024, in a case brought by South Africa against Israel pursuant to Article IX of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the ICJ indicated various “provisional measures” against Israel, requiring the State to take all measures within its power to prevent the commission of all acts in violation of Article II of the Convention, in particular: the killing of Palestinians in Gaza; causing them serious bodily or mental harm; deliberately inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group, in whole or in part; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group. The ICJ specifically ordered Israel to ensure that its military does not engage in those acts. The Court also ordered Israel to prevent and punish public incitement to commit genocide, and to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance in Gaza. Israel is additionally required to preserve all evidence, and to provide a report to the ICJ by 26 February 2024 on the measures it has taken to give effect to the Court’s order.

In its ruling, the Court referred to the mass killing, maiming and displacement of the “extremely vulnerable” population of Palestinians in Gaza by Israel, as well as its destruction of vital infrastructure, including homes, schools and medical facilities, and the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation, necessitating urgent action. The Court also took express note of various statements by senior Israeli officials, including the President of Israel, using dehumanising language towards Palestinians.

The ruling, read out by the American President of the Court, was decided by an overwhelming majority (with only Judge Sebutinde (Uganda) finding against South Africa on all measures; and Judge ad hoc Barak (Israel) finding against South Africa in relation to two of the six measures). The ICJ’s order – which compels Israel to take comprehensive and urgent measures to remedy the devastating situation it has brought about in Gaza – is binding on Israel.

The Court’s ruling also has implications for third States that fund or otherwise facilitate Israel’s actions in Gaza that have been determined to be plausibly genocidal.

Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh KC represents South Africa in the case.

The ICJ’s Order of 26 January 2024 is available here