This week the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is the setting for a blockbuster trial in international law. On Thursday and Friday the ICJ will hold hearings on a case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza war.
South Africa has asked the ICJ for a provisional ruling seeking an emergency suspension of its military campaign, in order, it says, to prevent Israel from committing acts of potential genocide. The ICJ’s 15-judge panel – which will be expanded by an additional judge from each side in this case – will hear arguments from both sides, and then is expected to rule on these short-term measures within a few weeks.
The case itself will likely drag on for years. At its heart is the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, drawn up in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust.
In its 84-page filing South Africa says that by killing Palestinians in Gaza, causing them serious mental and bodily harm and by creating conditions of life “calculated to bring about their physical destruction”, Israel is committing genocide against them.
As members of the United Nations, both South Africa and Israel are bound by the court. Both South Africa and Israel are also signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which gives the ICJ the jurisdiction to rule on disputes over the treaty.
To give us a preview of what we might expect to see this week and to explain the goings-on of the court, we have rounded up three experts to talk to us this week.
First we sat down with South African lawyer and Director of the Africa Programme at the International Commission of Jurists, Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh. She explained South Africa’s motivations for bringing this case to the ICJ.
We also interviewed Palestinian genocide scholar Maha Abdallah, from the University of Antwerp about the key points of South Africa’s application to the court. And then to give us a overview of the ICJ and its procedures we spoke to Juliette McIntyre. Friend of the pod, Lecturer in Law at the University of South Australia and keen ICJ watcher, Juliette also gave us a useful breakdown of previous ICJ cases and background, that may prove pertinent to this week’s hearings.