The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled Israel must take all measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
The ICJ, the world’s top court, held a two-day public hearing over Jan. 11 to 12 to determine whether Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, after South Africa filed a case on Dec. 29, 2023.
South Africa said that Israel had violated the Genocide Convention and urged the court to institute an emergency order – also known as provisional measures – to stop Israel from committing further crimes in Gaza as an official judgement may take years.
After the court heard opening statements from both South Africa and Israel, the court issued a provisional measure o Friday Jan. 26 ordering Israel to “take all measures within its power to prevent genocidal acts against Palestinians”.
In its ruling, the court recalled facts and evidence presented by South Africa including statements from UN officials and dehumanizing quotes from senior Israeli officials, finding that South Africa’s case that Israel is committing genocide is plausible.
The court ordered Israel to:
- Take all measures within its power to prevent genocide of Palestinians.
- Ensure its military doesn’t commit genocidal acts.
- Take all measures within its power to prevent and punish public incitement to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.
- Ensure provisions of urgent service and humanitarian aid in Gaza.
- Ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of genocide.
- Submit a report to the court in one month showing its compliance with the court’s order.
The orders “have a binding effect and thus create international legal obligations” for Israel.
The ICJ has also called on Hamas and other armed groups to immediately and unconditionally release Israeli hostages taken on Oct. 7.
Although, the court did not ordered an immediate ceasefire, which South Africa was pushing for, human rights groups have welcomed the ruling and called for Israel to comply.
“The ICJ’s speedy ruling issued today is recognition of the dire situation in Gaza, where civilians face starvation and are being killed daily levels unprecedented in the recent history of Israel and Palestine,” Human Rights Watch wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Meanwhile, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the ruling a “vile attempt” to deny Israel the “inherent right to defend itself”.
“The charge of genocide levelled against Israel is not only false, it’s outrageous, and decent people everywhere should reject it,” he said.
The ICJ has yet to rule that Israel is committing genocide, and a final judgment may take years.