Israel acts in clear breach of the International Court of Justice order

Press release
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Nikos Oikonomou / ANADOLU / Anadolu via AFP

Israel’s report on its implementation of the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is due today. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) strongly condemns Israel’s flagrant breaches of this legally binding decision. Concerted sanctions and pressure by third states are necessary to bring about an immediate and effective ceasefire as well as accountability for the international crimes committed.

Paris, The Hague, 26 February 2024. I am personally proud of the ruins of Gaza, and that every baby, even 80 years from now, will tell their grandchildren what the Jews did,” said Israel’s Minister for Women’s Advancement, May Golan, at the Knesset on 19 February. This statement, among many others, indicates that the Israeli government is not abating nor showing any remorse for its actions that prompted the ICJ to acknowledge the plausibility of Israel committing genocide against Palestinians and the order for six provisional measures. These measures require Israel to take immediate steps to protect Palestinians’ rights, prevent and punish the commission of genocidal acts and incitements to genocide, and enable the provision of humanitarian assistance. The Court also ordered Israel to provide a report on the implementation of the provisional measures within a month.

Israel has utterly failed to comply with the Court’s order. Documentation by Palestinian and Israeli NGOs, international institutions, as well as media reports, suggest that violence towards civilians has continued unabated. Although the ICJ did not expressly order a ceasefire, the provisional measures indicated by the Court would have that practical effect if implemented. Nonetheless, Israel has persisted in its campaign on Gaza resulting in the killing of close to 30,000 Palestinians as of 23 February. Last week, Israel gave a three-week deadline before starting an offensive in Rafah, which by all accounts would be catastrophic to the 1.5 million Palestinians who have already been displaced there. As emphasised by the International Committee of the Red Cross, there is no option for evacuation as “there is simply nowhere else for the people to go.” While the prospect of a ground offensive on Rafah sparked strong denunciation by the international community, including some of Israel’s closest allies, there have been no credible interventions to halt Israel’s planned action.

Israel’s next target Rafah is the main point of entry for delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza

In stark contrast, Israel’s allegations against UNRWA employees being linked to the 7 October attack, conspicuously raised the same day as the ICJ’s order, were followed by immediate retaliatory measures by several states. As a result, USD 438 million of funding to UNRWA was suspended, more than half of the agency’s expected funds for 2024. This jeopardises the last lifeline for millions of Palestinian refugees, potentially implicating states that have suspended their funding as complicit in the resulting humanitarian crisis. As thousands of Palestinians are dying of starvation in North Gaza, it was also reported that Israel has blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid that was destined to the Palestinian population in Gaza.

In light of these new developments, on 12 February, South Africa submitted a new request for the ICJ to order additional provisional measures of its choosing, based on article 75(1) of the Rules of the Court. South Africa argued that Israel’s unprecedented military offensive on Rafah puts an estimated 1.4 million vulnerable Palestinians “at serious risk of irreparable harm to their right to be protected from acts of genocide contrary to the Genocide Convention”. While the Court declined South Africa’s request for additional provisional measures, it demanded immediate and effective implementation by Israel of the provisional measures indicated by the Court on 26 January 2024, suggesting that it does not consider that Israel has been complying to date. Without full and effective implementation of the provisional measures, thousands more may face death as a result of famine and the severe lack of adequate water and sanitation.

Despite the ICJ order, Israel has continued to commit international crimes in Gaza, all under the protection of the United States’ veto at the United Nations. FIDH calls for firm rulings ordering an effective ceasefire, and concrete efforts to exert pressure on Israel to respect its obligations under international law. Israel cannot be allowed to enjoy such impunity. Sanctions must be applied, alongside other measures, to end this ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people.

FIDH urges Israel to respect the provisional measures and comply with its obligation to prevent and punish genocidal acts. Third states must call for an immediate ceasefire, stop arms exports to Israel which are “likely to violate international humanitarian law” as emphasised recently by UN experts, and take concrete measures to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the unfolding genocide and other serious international crimes being committed.

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