Historic ICJ ruling reins Israel in

Niël Terblanché

Friday 26 January 2024 will henceforth be remembered as a pivotal moment in international law as the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its interim ruling on emergency measures against Israel, following South Africa’s accusations of state-led genocide in the Gaza conflict.

At around 14:00 today, a panel of 17 judges of the International Court of Justice in The Hague found that ongoing hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza pose a plausible risk of irreparable harm.

In lieu of a final judgement, the panel of judges handed down interim measures to mitigate the severe humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Gaza since 7 October 2023.

The ICJ judges did not order a ceasefire as applied for by South Africa. Still, they ordered Israel to take all measures to prevent the commission of all acts within Genocide Convention Article 2 a), b), c), and d).

Israel must further ensure that military forces do not commit any of these acts, and take measures to prevent and punish direct and public incitement to commit genocide against Palestinians.

The international court also ordered that Israel must take immediate and effective measures to address the adverse conditions of life in Gaza which includes the provision of humanitarian aid.

Israel must prevent the destruction of evidence of war crimes or genocide and must also submit a report to the ICJ on all measures taken to give effect to this order within one month.

The interim measures ordered by the ICJ are intended as a form of restraint while the court thoroughly examines the case – a process that may take several years.

Globally, nations awaited the outcome of the ICJ’s ruling, not only for its immediate potential impact on hostilities but also for the precedent it could set regarding accusations of genocide and the responsibilities of nations under the Genocide Convention.

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