Armed Conflict Foreign Relations & International Law

South Africa and Israel Deliver Oral Arguments in ICJ Case Alleging Genocide

Tyler McBrien
Saturday, January 13, 2024, 12:38 PM
The legal teams of South Africa and Israel delivered arguments at The Hague on Jan. 11 and 12, respectively.

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On Jan. 11 and Jan. 12, lawyers representing the Republic of South Africa and the State of Israel delivered oral arguments in the Peace Palace at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in South Africa v. Israel on the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip. 

The oral arguments followed South Africa’s initiation of proceedings at the ICJ on Dec. 29, 2023. The application, brought under Article IX of the Genocide Convention, states that Israel “intend[s] to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.” South Africa alleges that the state of Israel has failed to prevent genocide, failed to prosecute public incitement to genocide, and has directly engaged in genocidal acts in Gaza. 

South Africa’s legal team alleged five main “genocidal acts” committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza, including “the mass killing of Palestinians,” the “infliction of serious mental and bodily harm,” “expulsion and forced displacement,” “assault on Gaza’s healthcare system, which renders life unsustainable,” and the imposition of “measures intended to prevent births within the group.” Though the ICJ may take years to issue a final ruling, South Africa requested that the court issue provisional measures, including an order for Israel to “immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.”

In its defense, Israel argued that it has a right to defend itself under international law in response to Hamas’s attacks on Oct. 7, 2023. Any interim measure ordering Israel to cease military operations in Gaza would “deny Israel its ability to meet its obligations to the defence of its citizens, to the hostages and to over 110,000 internally displaced Israelis unable to safely return to their homes,” according to Israel’s legal team. Israel also found its alleged genocidal intent to be “totally lacking” and based only on “random assertions.” 

Read South Africa’s oral argument here or below:


Read Israel’s oral argument here or below:

Tyler McBrien is the managing editor of Lawfare. He previously worked as an editor with the Council on Foreign Relations and a Princeton in Africa Fellow with Equal Education in South Africa, and holds an MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.

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