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‘It is a matter of urgency. We expect an outcome soon’: Ngcukaitobi on SA vs Israel court order

The president of the ICJ, judge Joan Donoghue, says an order in the South Africa vs Israel genocide case will be made 'as soon as possible'.
The president of the ICJ, judge Joan Donoghue, says an order in the South Africa vs Israel genocide case will be made 'as soon as possible'.
Image: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek. Courtesy of the ICJ.

While no date has been set for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to deliver an order in South Africa’s case against Israel regarding a genocide charge for the Gaza war, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi anticipates it will be made relatively soon as blood continues to spill in the Middle East.

South Africa applied to the world court sitting in The Hague, Netherlands to make an order for the suspension of military operations in Gaza, arguing Israel has committed genocide against Palestinian people after the attacks by Hamas in Israel on October 7 2023. The hearings started on Thursday and concluded on Friday after Israel and South Africa made oral arguments.

Ngcukaitobi, speaking after the South Africa legal team members returned to the country, was hopeful the judges would be able to deliver an order soon. 

Nobody knows what a court will decide. They [judges] will apply themselves after hearing the arguments. We expect an outcome relatively soon. I do not know when, but it will be relatively soon. It is a matter of urgency. They understand the weight of the responsibility on their shoulders,” he said.

Ngcukaitobi described South Africa’s case against Israel in a deadly clash that has been ongoing for years as an “episode”, saying the struggle continues for the residents of Gaza. 

“We must not forget the struggle continues. This is an episode in a long struggle.” 

The ICJ president, judge Joan Donoghue, said the court would make an order “as soon as possible” . 

“The court will render its order on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by South Africa as soon as possible. The agents of the parties will be advised on the date, in due course, in which the court would deliver the order in a public sitting.

In its application South Africa alleged Israel had violated the Genocide Convention. 

“South Africa unequivocally condemns all violations of international law by all parties, including the direct targeting of Israeli civilians and other nationals and hostage-taking by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups,” South Africa’s application read.

“No armed attack on a state’s territory no matter how serious — even an attack involving atrocity crimes — can, however, provide any possible justification for, or defence to, breaches of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The acts and omissions by Israel complained of by South Africa are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of Palestinian nationals.” 

Israel’s legal team asked the court to reject South Africa’s requests and throw the case out of court. 

Tal Becker, legal adviser to Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs, told the court South Africa was seeking to “demonise” the Jewish state with the genocide charge. Becker told court Israel’s armed forces were merely defending its citizens after 1,200 people were killed during the Hamas attacks on October 7, a day set for the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. 

“The state of Israel is aware why the Genocide Convention, which has been invoked in these proceedings, was adopted. Seated in our collective memory is the systematic murder of 6-million Jews as part of a premeditated and heinous programme for their annihilation. The applicant has sought to invoke this term in the context of Israel’s conduct in a war it did not start and did not want,” Becker told the court. 

“A war in which Israel is defending itself against Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organisations whose brutality knows no bounds. The civilian suffering in this war, like in all wars, is tragic and heartbreaking. As this court has already made it clear, the Genocide Convention was not designed for the brutal impact of intensive hostilities on the civilian population even when the use of force raises ‘very serious issues of international law and involves unanimous suffering and continuing loss of life’.” 


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