South Africa calls for UN action on ICJ’s Israel genocide ruling

By S’thembile Cele

South Africa wants the United Nations Security Council to outline measures that it will take to enforce an International Court of Justice’s interim ruling against Israel as it seeks to sustain international pressure to bring an end to hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

The UN’s top court on Friday said that Israel — accused by South Africa of genocide amid its crackdown on Hamas — must act to prevent Palestinians from being killed or injured, but stopped short of demanding an immediate cease-fire. 

Algeria, which is a non-permanent member of the UNSC, has written to the council requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the court’s ruling, and it is expected to be held on Jan. 31. António Guterres, the UN’s secretary general, said he would also be notifying the UNSC of the court’s provisional order.  

“The ruling must speak to the conscience of other nations and members of the Security Council,” South Africa’s Justice Minister, Ronald Lamola said. “They must respond in compliance with the order.” 

If a Security Council intervention is blocked by the US, which has been consistent in its support of Israel, South Africa will approach the UN General Assembly, which has previously voted in favor of a cease-fire, said Lamola, who led the country’s delegation to the ICJ. 

In a Dec. 12 vote, 153 nations favored a cease-fire, 10 opposed and 23 abstained.

Since the war began on Oct. 7, South African critics of Israel have drawn parallels between the killing of civilians in Gaza and the violence meted out by South Africa’s apartheid regime, which was established in 1948 — the same year the state of Israel was founded. 

In 1974 the UNGA voted to suspend South Africa from participating in its work due to international opposition to apartheid, Lamola referred to that vote saying that there was precedence in how that organ could respond if approached. 

The ICJ ordered Israel to report back within a month on measures it had taken to comply with the ruling. South Africa will also be compiling its own observations, to present to the court, Lamola said.

Meanwhile, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the ruling as an assertion of the international rule of law.

“The key pillars of our foreign policy since the advent of our democracy include the pursuit of our national interest, the promotion of human rights, peace and stability, the strengthening of trade and investment ties with other countries around the world,” he told a ruling party gathering on Monday. “South Africa’s image in the world has been raised exponentially over the past few years and has emerged as the voice of the African agenda, South-South cooperation, North-South dialogue, global multilateral governance and economic institutions reform.”

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