S.Africa hails 'decisive victory' at International Court of Justice

Friday January 26 2024
pro palestine

Pro-Palestinian supporters react in celebration after watching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivering its decision following a hearing of the case against Israel brought by South Africa in The Hague at the Embassy of Palestine in Pretoria on January 26, 2024. PHOTO | AFP


South Africa on Friday hailed a ruling by the United Nations' top court that Israel should do everything it can to prevent any acts of genocide in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague handed down its verdict in a landmark case brought by Pretoria also ordering Israel to allow humanitarian access to the Palestinian territory.

"Today marks a decisive victory for the international rule of law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people," South Africa's ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Read: SA genocide case against Israel: What to expect from ICJ

"The decision is a momentous one," it added, thanking the court for its "swift ruling".

South Africa has accused Israel of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide Convention -- set up in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust -- during its military campaign in Gaza, sparked by the October 7 attacks by Hamas.


The court did not pass judgement on whether or not Israel is actually committing genocide but handed down emergency orders while it considers the wider accusation -- a process that is likely to take years.

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People gather to watch the International Court of Justice ruling of the case against Israel in The Hague at the Bertha House in Cape Town, South Africa on January 26, 2024. PHOTO | AFP

'Plausibly genocidal'

"Third States are now on notice of the existence of a serious risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza," the ministry of foreign affairs said.

"This necessarily imposes an obligation on all States to cease funding and facilitating Israel's military actions, which are plausibly genocidal."

President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ruling council of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) Party erupted in cheers, singing and dancing after judges read the order.

Read: S.Africa case against Israel a risky affair for ANC

Ramaphosa was due to make a speech on the ruling later Friday.

The ANC's National Executive Committee suspended a meeting to watch a broadcast from the court, and live footage from the event showed senior party and government figures celebrating.

The case, and their government's involvement in it, has also generated public interest in South Africa, where many have sympathy for the Palestinian quest for statehood.

In Cape Town and Pretoria, AFP reporters found people gathering to watch the ruling, which was carried in full on state television.

As the ICJ judge announced the provisional measures, applause erupted among a diverse crowd of about 30 gathered in a community centre in Cape Town, some wearing earrings and colours in support of Palestine.


International Court of Justice judges give verdict announcement in the genocide case against Israel, brought by South Africa in The Hague, Netherlands on January 26, 2024. PHOTO | AFP

"We are discussing the extent to which it can have an impact... For now it is a step in the right direction," said medical student Kwezi Zwane, 24, as attendees embraced and commented on the ruling.

Read: South Africa's 'Genocide' Case V Israel: What Next?

The ICJ's rulings are binding on all parties but it has no mechanism to enforce them. Sometimes they are completely ignored. 

Anti-apartheid struggle

"South Africa sincerely hopes that Israel will not act to frustrate the application of this order, as it has publicly threatened to do, but that it will instead act to comply with it fully, as it is bound to do," the ministry said. 

Pretoria has long been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, with the ANC party often linking it to its own struggle against apartheid.

The October 7 Hamas attack resulted in the death of around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

At least 26,083 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in Israeli bombardments and ground offensive since then, according to the Hamas government's health ministry.