Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation on 26/01/2024

Today the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) handed down a decision in South Africa’s application for provisional measures in the Israel-Gaza conflict. In handing down its decision, the Court emphasised that its decision in no way prejudges the merits of the case and that all parties to the conflict (including, therefore, Hamas) are bound by international humanitarian law

The Court’s order underscores the critical importance of upholding international humanitarian law, especially in times of war. This includes principles such as proportionality, distinction, and the protection of civilians, as outlined in various international conventions and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions and the Genocide Convention.

In terms of the Court’s order:

Israel must, in terms of its obligations under the Genocide Convention, take measures to prevent all acts that fall within the scope of Article 2 of the convention. This includes ensuring the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) refrain from committing such acts. It must also take measures in its power to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Court’s grave concern about the fate of the Israeli hostages abducted on 7 October 2023 and held since then, and its call for their immediate and unconditional release, underscores the urgency of addressing all aspects of the conflict and prioritizing the safe return of those unlawfully detained.

The Court requires that Israel further take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse condition of life faced by Palestinians in Gaza. By emphasising the prevention of harm to civilians, the Court reaffirms the fundamental principles of humanitarian law, mandating that military operations prioritise the safety and well-being of non-combatant individuals, including women and children who are disproportionately affected by armed conflict.

Israel must also prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article 2 and Article 3 of the convention, underscoring the imperative of accountability and justice. 

Finally, Israel must submit a report to the Court on all measures taken to give effect to the Court’s order within a month from today.

As citizens of South Africa, it is essential to understand and engage with these developments, recognizing the role of international institutions in promoting peace, justice, and respect for human rights on a global scale, even in, and especially in, the face of war. 

The FW de Klerk Foundation joins the Court in its call for the upholding of international humanitarian law and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. The Foundation remains committed to fostering dialogue, understanding, and advocacy for the principles of justice and reconciliation, both at home and abroad.

Image ©️ Patrick Post / AP