Issue Brief on “South Africa’s ICJ Case against Israel: Will the World Wake up to the Ongoing Human Catastrophe in Gaza?”


On December 29, 2023, South Africa initiated legal proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Hearings concerning South Africa’s appeal for provisional measures took place on 11-12 January 2024. The legal action, initiated on December 29, 2023, alleged that Israel has committed “genocidal acts” in its military assaults on Gaza. ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, held public hearings on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa in the case South Africa v. Israel. The public hearings took place at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court, under the presidency of Judge Joan E. Donoghue, President of the Court.[1]

South Africa in its petition to the ICJ alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the “Genocide Convention”) concerning Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.[2] It argued that Israel had exhibited a consistent “pattern of genocidal conduct” since the commencement of its extensive conflict in Gaza in 1967. The Court was apprised that “this act of killing amounts to nothing less than the intentional destruction of Palestinian lives. It is executed with clear intent, sparing no one, not even newborn infants.”[3] According to the application, South Africa characterized the “acts and omissions by Israel genocidal in character, with the requisite specific intent to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader  Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group” and that “the conduct of  Israel — through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and  entities acting on its instructions or under its direction, control or influence  — in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, violates its obligations  under the Genocide Convention.”[4]

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