What does bringing Israel to the International Court of Justice mean?

By Gamal Khattab January 03, 2024 3772


  • South Africa files a case against Israel for practicing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
  • The International Court of Justice has limited powers and can only hear cases with consent or compulsory jurisdiction clauses.
  • South Africa's approach is based on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
  • Israel's Prime Minister dismisses South Africa's claims, stating Israel is in a defensive war.
  • Israel's Foreign Ministry dismisses the request as "defamation without a legal basis."

South Africa Files Case against Israel at ICJ

South Africa has recently filed a case against Israel at the United Nations International Court of Justice. They have also requested provisional measures against Israel for its alleged failure to prevent the crime of genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Understanding the Court

The International Court of Justice is different from the International Criminal Court. It has the authority to settle disputes between countries. However, its powers are limited because it can only hear cases if the countries involved give their consent or if they have signed an optional clause related to compulsory jurisdiction. Only a third of the member states of the United Nations have done so.

South Africa's Approach

Due to the limitations of the court's jurisdiction, South Africa took a different path. They resorted to the court based on an international treaty called the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This treaty was unanimously approved by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1948.

South Africa wants to condemn and prevent genocide in connection with Israel's war on the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which has turned into a war on the Palestinian people. According to the treaty, genocide must be prevented or suppressed from the moment the intent to destroy a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group is revealed.

Israel's Response

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected South Africa's assertions, stating that Israel is engaged in a defensive war and is doing everything possible to avoid harming civilians. He accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry also dismissed the request as "defamation without a legal basis" and emphasized that Israel respects international law in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

The Path to Justice

Achieving justice in this matter will be a long and winding road. It is important for everyone to understand that no one is above the law, and the word of the strongest should not always be the final say.

Source: Mediapart