UN’s top court orders Israel to immediately halt Rafah offensive in South Africa’s genocide case

Max du Plessis SC and Professor John Dugard SC continue to act in the legal team representing the South African Government (‘SA’) in its case to the United Nations at the Hague, alleging that Israel’s military offensive in Gaza since 7 October 2022 violates the Genocide Convention of 1948 – specifically that Israel has genocidal intent against Palestinians in Gaza nurtured at the highest level of state.

Last Friday 24 May, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah in a ruling that sustains international pressure calling for a ceasefire in the region. This is the ICJ’s third ruling and by far its most significant intervention in the conflict. It came four days after the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court, a separate court also based in The Hague, said he was seeking arrest warrants for senior Hamas and Israeli officials for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant.

Classifying the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Rafah as “disastrous”, ICJ president, Nawaf Salam, said the court had voted by a majority of 13 votes to two that:

“Israel shall, in conformity with its obligations under the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, and in view of the worsening conditions of life faced by civilians in Rafah governorate … immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah governorate which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

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