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President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes new ICJ orders in aid of Rafah

South Africa welcomes the order handed down by the International Court of Justice today by 13 votes to 2, ordering Israel, in conformity with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and in view of the worsening conditions of life faced by civilians in Rafah, to immediately halt its military operation.

The Court ordered Israel to halt any other actions in Rafah, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

The Court further ordered Israel to maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance and to take effective measures to ensure the unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip of any commission of inquiry, fact-finding mission or other investigative body mandated by competent organs of the United Nations to investigate allegations of genocide.

In terms of the court order, Israel has to submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month.

In its ruling, the World Court said it was “not convinced” that the evacuation of Rafah and other measures by Israel are sufficient to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

The ruling was made pursuant to an urgent request filed by South Africa on 10 May 2024, which was followed by an urgent Oral Hearing the following week scheduled by the Court.

South Africa asked the Court to grant additional or modified provisional measures in order to prevent irreparable harm by Israel to the rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention, as well as to South Africa’s rights and obligations under that Convention to take steps to prevent genocide.

South Africa has already successfully applied for provisional measures on two separate occasions, but Israel has refused to comply with these binding orders of Court, which necessitated the return to The Hague once more following Israel’s Rafah invasion.

South Africa’s request was based on UN sources and information from other credible international NGOs, and the Court’s own recounting of the facts.

Those facts were not refuted by Israel with anything but its own unsourced, unsupported, and unilateral assertions. 

Expert accounts point to Israel having repeatedly bombed, shelled, and invaded areas that it had previously designated as safe ‘humanitarian zones and has also repeatedly displaced Palestinians from sites where it previously directed them to seek refuge and shelter.

President Ramaphosa said: “We are gravely concerned that Israel has restricted necessary levels of aid from entering Gaza and has systematically targeted aid and aid infrastructure within Gaza.

“This case is thus focused on the ordinary Palestinians in Gaza who are now facing their seventh month of suffering through collective  punishment for something for which they have no individual responsibility.”

By 24 May, when the ICJ gave its fourth decision on provisional measures in four months, at least 35,709 Palestinians had been killed. 

Palestinians continue to die of starvation, many of them children, and hundreds of thousands are at imminent threat of death because a deliberate decision has been taken by Israel to starve Palestinians by denying them food.

 At least 80,000 Palestinians have been injured and 1.7 million displaced, often multiple times, with 900,000 displaced in the last two weeks alone.

The Court, whose powers are tied to the provisions of the Genocide Convention and cannot be exercised against “mere” war crimes or human rights violations, has done what it considers it can do to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people in Gaza as a group and their protection from further harm.

South Africa remains concerned that the United Nations Security Council has so far not succeeded in stopping the human suffering. 

The Court’s latest order comes in the same week that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) took a decisive step in requesting arrest warrants to be issued for the Prime Minister and Defence Minister of Israel, and three leaders of Hamas, for alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since 7 October 2023.

The action follows South Africa's referral of such crimes to the International Criminal Court in November 2023.

“We call on all State Parties to observe the prescripts of international law, which obliged them to reconsider their relations with Israel following the Court findings. 

“Under international law, Israel is obliged to implement the Court’s Order, as well as the previous orders of 26 January (as reaffirmed by the Court on 16 February) and 28 March. Similarly under international law, the prohibition on genocide is a peremptory norm from which no derogation is permitted, for any reason whatsoever,” says President Ramaphosa.

Media enquiries 
Vincent Magwenya, Spokesperson to President Ramaphosa - 
E-mail: Media@presidency.gov.za

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