ICJ orders Israel to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza; stops short of immediate ceasefire

Surinder Singh Oberoi
New Update
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New Delhi: The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has issued a ruling requiring Israel to implement all necessary measures to prevent genocidal acts in the Gaza Strip.

The court, however, stopped short of ordering an immediate ceasefire, a decision that diverges from South Africa's urgent request for an immediate halt to hostilities in Gaza. This may have disappointed South Africans and Palestinians, who were hoping for a more immediate international response to the conflict.

The ICJ's ruling is anticipated to further stimulate discussions regarding the intricate dynamics of the conflict and the ongoing efforts to achieve lasting peace in the region. T

The decision was made with a significant majority, as 16 out of 17 judges voted in Favor of mandating Israel to take immediate and comprehensive steps to prevent actions that could be construed as genocidal in Gaza. The court however cannot enforce its orders directly and chances are that Israel will ignore the orders.

This includes preventing and penalizing any incitement to genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, as well as ensuring the provision of essential humanitarian aid and basic services.

While the court emphasized its neutral stance on South Africa's accusation of genocide by Israel, a matter not expected to be resolved for several years, it did highlight the obligation of all parties in the Gaza conflict to adhere to humanitarian law. The court particularly focused on the well-being of hostages in Gaza.

Judge Joan Donoghue, underscoring the urgency of the situation, emphasized that Israel must ensure that its military refrains from acts that could cause serious harm to Palestinians. She highlighted the need for immediate measures to prevent incitement to genocide and to provide basic services and humanitarian aid. Israel is also required to submit a report within one month on its compliance with the court's orders.

The Palestinian foreign minister has welcomed the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice. "ICJ judges assessed the facts and the law, ruled in favour of humanity and international law," Riyad Al-Maliki says, according to the Reuters news agency. Al-Maliki is from the Palestinian Authority which runs the West Bank and is not necessarily in line with Hamas.

Despite the court's inability to enforce its orders directly, its rulings carry significant political weight and could increase pressure on Israel to take more substantive actions, such as working towards a temporary ceasefire or allowing more aid into Gaza.

The case was brought to the ICJ by South Africa, alleging that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and failing to prevent and punish such acts in violation of the Genocide Convention. Israel has categorically denied these allegations, labelling them as baseless and grossly distorted.

The court's president, Judge Joan E. Donoghue, an American lawyer elected to the ICJ in 2010 and a former legal adviser in the US State Department is the second woman and third American to hold this position.

The ruling coincides with ongoing mediation efforts by Qatar, Egypt, and the United States to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, following significant casualties and a deteriorating humanitarian situation resulting from recent conflicts in the region.