South Africa’s Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola speaks to members of the media on a day judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) hear a request for emergency measures by South Africa, who asked the court to order Israel to stop its military actions in Gaza and to desist from what South Africa says are genocidal acts committed against Palestinians during the war with Hamas in Gaza, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 11, 2024.
Thilo Schmuelgen | Reuters
“South Africa has not done anything unusual by going to an institution which has been established by the United Nations for dispute settlement between nations, and we’re following rule of law and legal principles in this regard,” Godongwana told CNBC on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Supporters of Israel of course, including the U.K., will say our application is nonsense but there is global support for our view that in fact, our case was substantive and we have argued our case.”
Turkey, Jordan, Brazil, Colombia, Bolivia, Pakistan and Malaysia are among the states that have publicly supported South Africa’s application, along with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The Saudi-based organization consists of 57 member states, 48 of which are Muslim-majority countries.
Godongwana reiterated that Pretoria agreed that Israel had to respond to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, but that the response was “disproportionate” and has caused too many civilian casualties. The Hamas-run Gazan health ministry estimates that more than 23,000 people have been killed since the war began.
Israel strongly denied the accusation, contending that it has a right to defend itself in response to the terror attack by Hamas fighters, who killed around 1,200 people and took around 250 hostage.
Mark Regev, former ambassador to the United Kingdom and senior advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on Friday called the genocide allegation “ludicrous, offensive and wrong.”
South Africa’s case also came under fire from Israel’s allies, including the U.S. and the U.K. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Monday called the allegations “nonsense,” while White House National Security spokesman John Kirby slammed the lawsuit as “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever.”
The Genocide Convention under which South Africa lodged the case defines genocide as specific “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
South Africa argued that Israel has committed and failed to prevent genocidal acts through killings, physical and mental harm, and the imposition of conditions “intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”
The country’s lawyers also accused Israel of failing to “prevent or punish the direct and public incitement to genocide by senior Israeli officials and others.”
The case is likely to drag on for several years, with similar cases under the Genocide Convention in the past — such as that against Serbia — taking more than a decade to reach a final decision.
In the short term, the court is considering South Africa’s request for provisional measures, namely whether the court should order Israel to suspend its military operations in Gaza, take necessary measures to prevent genocide and further killing or harm.