Civil Engagement Group Senators call on Government to join South Africa's genocide case against Israel

The International Court Of Justice
The International Court Of Justice

Members of the Seanad’s Civil Engagement Group have written a letter to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste asking the Government to join South Africa in charging Israel with genocide through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

The group includes senators Alice-Mary Higgins, Lynn Ruane, Frances Black and Eileen Flynn. 

Dear Taoiseach and Tánaiste,

We are writing to you today regarding the proceedings initiated by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice in the wake of the bombardment of and mass civilian killings in Gaza by the Israeli Government.

South Africa’s application to the Court presents a rigorous legal argument that Israel has consistently and flagrantly breached international law and specifically the Genocide Convention by its actions over the last number of months.

In their application, South Africa clearly describe how “Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Those acts include killing them, causing them serious mental and bodily harm and deliberately inflicting on them conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction as a group.”[1]

The South African application to the Court also places Israel’s recent actions as part of a “broader context of Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians during its 75-year-long apartheid, its 56-year long belligerent occupation of Palestinian territory and its 16-year-long blockade of Gaza” and that the acts committed by Israel in recent weeks and throughout its occupation “are committed with the requisite specific intent (dolus specialis) to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”[2]

The Genocide Convention is clear that Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they are required to undertake to prevent and to punish. Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group – acts including killing members of that group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to that group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article 3 of the Convention is also clear that genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, attempts to commit genocide and complicity in genocide are all crimes under international law.

In their application to the Court, South Africa have rightly stated that “any State party to the Genocide Convention, and not only a specially affected State, may invoke the responsibility of another State party with a view to ascertaining the alleged failure to comply with its obligations erga omnes partes, and to bring that failure to an end”.

In this context, as a State party to the Convention, Ireland has an obligation to ensure it is being upheld and in this context has a clear and urgent responsibility to initiate proceedings or join in the proceedings initiated by South Africa at the Court. In their own application, South Africa clearly demonstrate that their application – while also concerning Israel’s non-compliance with the Convention – arises out of their own obligations to prevent genocide.[3]

The basis of the Genocide Convention is that genocide represents the most egregious crime against humanity and should not be allowed to happen again and it is clear that Israeli Government must be held accountable under the Convention.

We urge you to act without delay and initiate or join proceedings at the International Court of Justice.

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