Historic decision by the ICJ: FIDH welcomes the recognition of a plausible risk of genocide by the State of Israel

Remko de Waal / ANP MAG / ANP via AFP

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) welcomes the landmark decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which orders the State of Israel to comply with its obligations under the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Following this legally binding and unappealable decision, adopted by an overwhelming majority, FIDH calls on Israel to act in accordance with its obligations under international law, and on States to take concrete and urgent measures to prevent new international crimes from being committed, including the ongoing crime of genocide. States must now support accountability for the perpetrators of these crimes and not be complicit in crimes committed by Israel.

Paris, The Hague, 26 January 2024. On Friday 26 January in The Hague, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israël to take provisional measures in order to protect the Palestinian people from "a real and imminent risk of irreparable harm". FIDH, which regrets that the Court did not explicitly order a ceasefire, an essential provisional measure that would allow hostilities to cease, nevertheless welcomes this historic decision, which recognizes a plausible risk of genocide being committed by the State of Israel and constitutes an important step for upholding the international rule of law.

"States and individuals can no longer pretend not to know of the ongoing genocide. It is time for States and individuals to continue to push for accountability, sanctions and an end to this onslaught in Gaza", explains Diana Alzeer, Vice-President of FIDH and representative of Al-Haq, one of its member organisations in Palestine.

In this decision, the Court considers that "the civilian population of the Gaza Strip remains extremely vulnerable" and recalls that "the military operation carried out by Israel after 7 October 2023 caused, inter alia, tens of thousands of deaths and injuries and the destruction of homes, schools, medical facilities and other vital infrastructure, as well as massive displacement of the population".

The ICJ orders the State of Israel to ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit any act constituting the crime of genocide, to prevent and punish the commission and incitement to commit genocide in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of basic services and humanitarian assistance, to take measures to prevent the destruction and to ensure the preservation of evidence relating to possible violations of the 1948 Convention. It also orders Israel to submit a report, within one month, on all measures taken to comply with this order.

"By ordering these strong provisional measures and holding Israel to account, the Court is trying to protect the civilian population, put an end to the cycle of repeated and massive violence against Palestinians, prevent the commission of new international crimes and allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to the Gaza Strip. The ICJ has played its part by reminding us that all States must respect international law", explains Yosra Frawes, Head of FIDH’s North Africa and Middle East Desk.

Since the massacres of 7 October, perpetrated by Hamas and other armed groups in Israel, many countries have affirmed their unconditional support for the State of Israel and have refrained, contrary to their international obligations, from taking the necessary measures to put an end to the attacks and destruction directed against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. The Court’s decision is therefore a crucial step towards putting an end to this inertia and silence.

FIDH calls on these countries, and the international community as a whole, to immediately suspend financial aid and military assistance to Israel, and to put an end to economic and diplomatic support for an apartheid regime responsible for violations, international crimes, including genocide, and systematic abuses against the Palestinian population.

“Given of the statements made by certain senior Israeli officials, the FIDH is concerned that Israel may not comply with the Court’s decision, even though Israel is a member of the Court and a party to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide", stresses Yosra Frawes.

FIDH calls on Israel to act in accordance with its obligations under international law and comply with today’s ICJ order. FIDH also urges the United Nations Security Council, and in particular France, as President of the Council, to ensure the implementation of this decision, and to remove the various obstacles to the adoption of a resolution aimed at imposing sanctions in the event of non-compliance with the provisional measures requested by the ICJ.

Reminder of the procedure:

 In its application lodged with the International Court of Justice on 29 December 2023, South Africa, as a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 9 December 1948, sets out the reasons which led it to make allegations of genocide against the State of Israel. Pending a decision on the merits, South Africa asked the ICJ to indicate nine provisional measures to protect the Palestinian people from "further serious and irreparable harm" and to ensure that Israel complies with its obligations under the Genocide Convention, i.e. to prevent and punish genocide.

 During its hearing on Thursday 11 January 2024, South Africa referred to the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza, the destruction of civilian infrastructure and the restrictions on access to water, healthcare, and medical equipment. Pretoria also referred to statements by senior Israeli officials confirming that civilians were also being targeted.

 At its hearing on Friday 12 January 2024, the State of Israel presented its arguments, claiming that it was conducting offensives against Hamas for the sole purpose of defending itself and protecting its population. According to Israel, South Africa’s accusation was "a deliberately organised, decontextualised and manipulative description of the reality of current hostilities".

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