ICJ Grants Provisional Measures in Landmark Ruling in South Africa v. Israel Case

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced today its order to grant South Africa’s request for provisional measures requiring Israel to cease its military operations deemed to risk the destruction of the Palestinian people in Gaza. This ruling states that the Court has found an urgent and tangible possibility that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian as a group, and that it deemed it necessary to impose orders to prevent further violations of the Genocide Convention. It has also determined that there exists a real threat of genocidal incitement on the part of Israeli leadership that must be immediately curtailed. To clarify, this is not an explicit order for a ceasefire, but a call to stop all operations that may contribute to genocide. It is unclear as yet where this distinction lies, though it is important to underscore nonetheless.

This verdict follows the 11-12 January 2024 hearing during which both countries argued their cases before the Court. South Africa’s argument, as presented in its 29 December 2023 lawsuit, alleged that Israel had demonstrated an intent to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people. South African jurists at The Hague argued that this was apparent through both Israel’s devastating and indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Gaza since 7 October 2023, as well as the genocidal rhetoric of top Israeli leadership. In its ruling, the Court cited multiple UN body reports highlighting the pressing dangers faced by the Palestinian as evidence of a potential genocide being committed. It also pointed to several statements from top Israeli officials demonstrating that a plausible intent to commit genocide may underlie the sheer violence of the military assault on Gaza. The very possibility that a genocide is underway, the Court reasoned, necessitated immediate intervention in the form of the provisional measures granted.

The ICJ’s ruling is binding to both parties. Israel has been ordered to cease its military operations  contributing to genocide in Gaza, to remove blockades on humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and to uphold all of its obligations under the Convention to prevent genocide. Among these obligations is the prevention of further incitement to genocide and the preservation of all evidence pointing to it. The Court will continue to monitor the situation in Gaza to ensure these measures are satisfied. It should be noted that this ruling concerns only South Africa’s request for provisional measures.

The outcome of this hearing represents an important victory for the Palestinian cause, and a crucial reminder of the illegality of Israel’s assault on Gaza. As of 25 January 2024, nearly 26,000 Palestinians have died at the hands of Israeli forces, most of whom are women and children. A further 64,000 have been injured, and 1.7 million displaced (OCHA). It is difficult to separate any of violence against civilians in Gaza from that which is aimed at committing genocide. Thus far, nearly everything about Israel’s onslaught appears to have been done with the intent to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people in whole or in part. 

Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) supports the Court’s decision, and calls on the international community to seek its enforcement. The continued violation of Palestinians’ basic rights is unacceptable. Immediate action must be taken to help the millions suffering in Gaza.

Read more from GICJ:

75 Days and 75 Years of Ethnic Cleansing, and war crimes 

Understanding South Africa's ICJ lawsuit againt Israel

What provisional measures does South Africa seek from the ICJ

ICJ, South Africa, Israel, Palestine, Gaza, provisional measures, Geneva International Centre for Justice

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