Human Rights Watch has enthusiastically welcomed the recent provisional measures taken by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel, a response to a case initiated by South Africa. The case alleges violations of the Genocide Convention in Gaza, marking a historic development in the pursuit of justice for Palestinians.
In a ground-breaking decision, the ICJ has mandated Israel to take immediate steps to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The measures also include facilitating basic services and humanitarian aid, as well as curbing incitement to genocide. Balkees Jarrah, the associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, emphasized the significance of this decision, stating, “The World Court’s landmark decision puts Israel and its allies on notice that immediate action is needed to prevent genocide and further atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.”
Jarrah underscored the urgency for governments to use their influence to enforce the court’s order, given the severe civilian suffering in Gaza attributed to Israeli war crimes. The ICJ’s decision followed hearings on January 11 and 12, where South Africa sought urgent measures in response to Israel’s alleged atrocities against Palestinians, marking Israel’s first formal response to such allegations since October 7, 2023.
The case, filed by South Africa on December 29, 2023, accuses Israel of breaching the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The ICJ order urges provisional measures to safeguard the rights claimed by South Africa, particularly the right to protection from genocide for Palestinians in Gaza.
Furthermore, the court has obligated Israel to safeguard evidence relevant to the case and report on the implementation of these measures within a month. While the order is legally binding for the involved parties, Human Rights Watch noted that it was not as extensive as South Africa had initially requested. However, the court exercised its discretion in determining the necessary measures, which will automatically be forwarded to the UN Security Council.
It is crucial to note that the current ICJ case is state-to-state litigation, distinct from criminal proceedings against individuals, and is not associated with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Meanwhile, ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan confirmed ongoing investigations since March 2021 into alleged atrocity crimes in Gaza and the West Bank since 2014, covering unlawful actions by all involved parties.
Balkees Jarrah further highlighted the gravity of the situation in Gaza, where civilians are facing unprecedented levels of starvation and violence. “The ICJ’s speedy ruling is a recognition of the dire situation in Gaza,” she said. She called on Israel’s allies to support compliance with this critical ruling, emphasizing their commitment to a global rules-based order.
As the world watches developments unfold, the enforcement of these provisional measures and subsequent actions taken by the international community will undoubtedly play a crucial role in addressing the longstanding humanitarian crisis in Gaza and holding accountable those responsible for alleged violations of international law.