ICJ to decide on emergency measures in Israel-Gaza genocide case this week

The World Court will decide whether to order an emergency suspension of Israel’s military action in Gaza.

Israel dismissed the genocide allegations as ‘grossly distorted’ [File: Israeli Army/Handout via Reuters]Published On 24 Jan 202424 Jan 2024

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has said it will announce on Friday whether it will order emergency measures against Israel after South Africa filed a case accusing Israel of genocide in its assault on Gaza.

The United Nations’ top court said in a statement on Wednesday that the 17-judge panel will announce its order in court on January 26 at 12:00 GMT.

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South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor will travel to The Hague to be present at the court as it delivers its judgement, a government spokesperson has announced, according to Reuters.

In its order, the ICJ will not deal with the main question of whether Israel is committing genocide, but will look at possible emergency measures requested by South Africa to restrain Israel’s actions.

Earlier this month, in two days of hearings, South Africa asked the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to order an emergency suspension of Israel’s devastating military campaign in the Palestinian enclave.

It argued that provisional measures are necessary “to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention, which continue to be violated with impunity”.

If the ICJ does decide on issuing emergency measures, it is not bound to order exactly the actions South Africa requested.

Such measures are intended to prevent a dispute from getting worse while the court looks at the full case, which could take several years.

The ICJ’s deliberations are a painstaking process, involving detailed written submissions followed by oral arguments and counter-arguments by the team of top legal counsels representing each state. Experts say a ruling in the case could take three to four years.

Rulings by the court are legally binding and without appeal, but the court has no way to enforce them. If the court grants some or all of South Africa’s eight requests for so-called provisional measures, it is unclear whether Israel will comply.

Israel dismissed the genocide allegations as “grossly distorted” and said it had a right to defend itself from Hamas, the Palestinian group that led a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people and seizing around 240 others has hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas in Gaza, not Palestinian civilians.

Since October, more than 25,700 people have been killed in the Israeli assault, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian authorities in Gaza.

While Israel often boycotts international tribunals and UN investigations, saying they are unfair and biased, the country sent a high-level legal team to two days of hearings earlier this month.

Any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country’s international standing. The European Union has been silent on the matter, but Israel has seen support from its number-one backer and weapons supplier, the United States.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies