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Statement on International Court of Justice May 24, 2024 Order

Justice for All welcomes International Court of Justice Order for Israel to halt military offensive in Rafah, calls on US to ensure its effective implementation

Justice for All welcomes the May 24, 2024 Order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on South Africa’s request for modification of the March 28, 2024 Order for provisional measures to, most significantly, order Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive and any other action in the Rafah Governorate that may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that would bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” In addition, the ICJ ordered Israel to maintain open the Rafah crossing for unhindered aid, take effective measures to ensure unimpeded access to fact-finding missions or other investigative UN bodies to investigate genocide, and submit a report to the Court on all measures taken within a month.

Today’s decision is the ICJ’s third order of provisional measures since South Africa initiated proceedings against Israel on allegations of genocide under the Genocide Convention on December 29, 2023. The decision on the merits of that case could take years, but the ICJ has the authority to consider provisional measures in the meantime when there is an imminent risk of “irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention”. In its March 28th order, seven of the judges appended declarations arguing, in various ways, that the ICJ should have ordered the suspension of military operations explicitly to facilitate the practical implementation of the provisional measures ordered, which included unhindered humanitarian assistance, opening and maintaining new land crossings, and ensuring the military does not commit acts that violate the Genocide Convention by preventing delivery of humanitarian aid.

Today, the call for an immediate cessation of military operations in Rafah by a nearly unanimous decision (13 to 2 in favor) of the ICJ comes as a relief to the international community calling for a ceasefire since Israel’s military invasion into Rafah began on May 7, 2024, prompting South Africa’s request on May 10th. At the time of its oral argument on May 16, 2024, South Africa noted the expansion of Israel’s operations throughout the Gaza Strip and orders of evacuations for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with no safe or habitable place to go. Although today’s decision is narrow in that it is limited to Rafah – South Africa requested cessation of military activities throughout Gaza and withdrawal from the territory – the ICJ needed to show that there were changed circumstances allowing it to modify its March 28th provisional orders, and the invasion of Rafah met this threshold.

In rendering this decision, the Court found that “Israel has not sufficiently addressed and dispelled the concern raised by its military offensive in Rafah” and that it “entails a further risk of irreparable prejudice to the plausible rights claimed by South Africa and that there is urgency, in the sense that there exists a real and imminent risk that such prejudice will be caused before the Court gives its final decision.” The Court noted the displacement of 800,000 Palestinians as of May 18, 2024, and the absence of a plan by Israel to ensure their access to food, water, sanitation, and shelter.

Justice for All commends the South African legal team for their comprehensive submission, oral argument, and 61-page written response to Israel’s 8-page reply to Judge Nolte’s question at the conclusion of oral hearings on May 17 and May 18, 2024: “Can Israel provide information about the existing humanitarian conditions in the designated evacuation zones, in particular Al-Mawasi, and how it would ensure safe passage to these zones, as well as the provision of shelter, food, water and other humanitarian aid and assistance to all evacuees that are, and can be expected to arrive, in these zones?” The ICJ stated today that it is not convinced that Israel’s evacuation efforts were sufficient to alleviate the immense risk to Palestinian civilian life.

Just minutes after today’s decision, Israel attacked Rafah in bold defiance of the Order.  As a genocide-prevention organization, Justice for All urges the international community to recognize the ongoing genocide of Palestinians and calls for immediate and sustained diplomatic action to ensure the effective implementation of the provisional measures, which are binding on the Parties. We highlight the importance of continued international efforts to achieve civilian protection and demand accountability as Israel continues to try to avoid it. As a purported champion of international human rights, the United States government must respect the ICJ decision and immediately urge the government of Israel to comply with the provisional measures. The United States government must cease arms transfers, military funding, and diplomatic support for Israel’s genocidal aggression to comply with its obligations under the International Arms Trade Treaty, Foreign Assistance Act, and Leahy Laws.

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