Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Lejone Mpotjoane, has confirmed Lesotho’s support for South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza.
“We support South Africa’s initiative. It is a commendable initiative,” Mpotjoane told Newsday on Thursday.
The two-day public hearing in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the ICJ began last Thursday. The South African government brought the case against Israel on December 29, accusing it of “genocidal acts” in its assaults on Gaza that have allegedly killed more than 23,000 Palestinians, nearly 10,000 of them children.
The 84-page filing by South Africa says Israel violated the 1948 genocide Convention.
Israel has strongly rejected the allegation, calling it baseless. The U.S Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has described the allegations are meritless while urging Israel to scale back the intensity of its military operations.
The ICJ is the United Nations (UN) top court.
Based in the Hague, in the Netherlands, it was established after World War II, to settle disputes between states and give advisory opinions on legal matters, which is what it is being asked to do with Israel.
Both South Africa and Israel are signatories to the UN Genocide Convention. Notably too is the U.S. even though that country generally has not ratified international human rights treaties.
All states that signed the convention are obliged to not commit genocide and also to prevent and punish it.
The treaty defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
Lawyers representing South Africa yesterday urged ICJ to order Israel to stop the violence in Gaza. In a roughly three-hour hearing, the lawyers argued that Israel has committed genocidal acts with genocidal intent, warranting provisional measures to prevent additional harm.
At the heart of South Africa’s presentation was a call for urgent steps to prevent further violence while the case plays out. The lawyers’ remarks highlighted the number of civilian deaths, ongoing threats to life in Gaza, and what they described as a pattern of genocidal language by Israeli officials.
“if any military operation – no matter how carefully it is carried out – is carried out pursuant to an intention to destroy a people in a whole or in part, it violates the genocide convention,” said Vaughan Lowe, a British lawyer representing South Africa. “And it must stop.”
Israel will present its defence against the allegations of rising genocide today. An interim decision is expected by the court in 10 to 14 days while the substance of the case could take years to argue.
The struggle between Arabs and Jews over ownership of the ‘Holy Land’ dates back more than a century and has given rise to seven major wars.
The latest broke out on October 7, last year, when the Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, which is dedicated to Israel’s destruction and which the U.S. and European Union (EU) have designated a terrorist organisation, attacked southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing hundreds of people in towns, kibbutzim, army bases and a music festival in the desert.
Israel then retaliated by launching operation “Swords of Iron” against Hamas following the militant group’s surprise attack.
On November 13, last year, Lesotho called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the facilitation of humanitarian aid and assistance, and the prompt resumption of negotiations to establish a lasting and peaceful resolution between Israel and Palestine.