South African advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi has argued before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague that the use of phrases like “bloodthirsty monsters”, “children of darkness” and “extreme evil” to describe Palestinians by key figures such as Israeli minister of defence Yoav Gallant, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and president Isaac Herzog show genocidal intent.
“The language of systematic dehumanisation is evident here – ‘human animals’. Both Hamas and civilians are condemned.
“The genocidal intent behind these statements is not ambiguous to the Israeli soldiers on the ground. Indeed, it is directing their actions and objectives,” Ngcukaitobi said yesterday.
South Africa (SA) is requesting that the court implement provisional measures, including the suspension of military activities in Gaza, the prevention of forced displacement, and the deprivation of access to adequate food, water, fuel, shelter and sanitation.
Namibia on Wednesday threw its weight behind South Africa’s move to challenge Israel before the ICJ.
“On the basis of our firm position to the Palestinian cause, Namibia supports the timely initiative taken by the Republic of South Africa,” executive director of international relations and cooperation ambassador Penda Naanda said.
So far, more than 23 000 Palestinians have lost their lives, and close to 60 000 have been injured in Israeli attacks primarily focused on hospitals and residential areas.
The Israeli military operations where triggered after militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October, killing 1 200 people and taking about 240 hostage.
Israel will offer its defence today, but has previously said its actions in the Gaza Strip are justified, because it is responding to Hamas’ deadly attacks on 7 October last year.
SA’s documents before the court, however, says: “No armed attack on a state’s territory . . . can provide any possible justification for, or defence to, breaches of the 1948 convention, whether as a matter of law or morality.”
While quoting SA’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, South African justice minister Ronald Lamola in his opening statement to the court said: “In extending our hands across the miles to the people of Palestine, we do it in full knowledge that we are part of a humanity that is one.”
Another member of SA’s legal team, advocate Adila Hassim, used Article 2a, 2b and 2c of the Genocide Convention to argue that Israel was in contravention of this international law.
She argued that Israel’s actions have imposed conditions on Gaza that prevent the sustenance of life, which form a calculated pattern of conduct specifically targeting Palestinians.
“Palestinians in Gaza are being killed by Israeli weapons and bombs from air, land and sea. They are also at immediate risk of starvation, dehydration and disease as a result of the ongoing siege by Israel, the destruction of Palestinian towns, insufficient aid being allowed through to the Palestinian population and the impossibility of distributing this limited aid while bombs fall,” she said.
John Dugard told the court that South Africa has jurisdiction to bring a case against Israel as both nations are signatories to the Genocide Convention. He said South Africa had tried to reach the Israeli government through forums like the United Nations General Assembly through a communique to the embassy before filing the case.
Another member of South Africa’s legal team, Vaughan Lowe, said SA will not be seeking a court order against Hamas because its acts do not fall within the tenets of the convention.
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