Tutu statue with Palestinian scarf adorns Mother City

Henry

A statue of the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, wearing a scarf of the Palestinian flag, will adorn Cape Town from Friday. It should serve as a symbol of Tutu’s lifelong zeal for justice for the Palestinians, the Desmond Tutu Foundation said on Thursday.

According to the foundation, the life-size statue of Tutu will be displayed on the balcony of its head office “until the bombing of Gaza ends”. This building, known as the Old Granary Building, is almost 200 years old and is located in the Cape Town city centre.

“Tutu was outspoken in his criticism of Israel’s policy and handling of Palestine and Palestinians, which he equated to policies during South Africa’s apartheid era,” says the foundation.

This announcement was made on the same day that South Africa argued in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague why Israel violated the United Nations Genocide Convention.

Judgment expected soon

Because the application is urgent, experts say, the ICJ is likely to rule on the case within the next few weeks. The court’s decision is final and cannot be appealed. However, countries do not always pay attention to the court’s rulings. For example, the court ordered Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine, without success.

Experts do believe that a court order against Israel will probably increase the political pressure on the country and some believe that it could even pave the way for sanctions against the country.

According to Cecily Rose, associate professor of public international law at Leiden University in the Netherlands, the court does not need to decide on the fundamentals of the case now – it could take years. “The court only needs to determine whether there is a risk that Palestinians’ rights under the genocide convention are threatened. In particular their right to be protected against actions that threaten their survival as a group.”

Adv. Adila Hassim argued on behalf of South Africa that Israel’s military operations in Gaza have driven civilians to the “brink of starvation”.

“Genocide is never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence which indisputably shows a pattern of behavior and related intent that justifies a credible allegation of acts of genocide,” Hassim said.

Hassim further argued that the first act of genocide committed by Israel was “the mass murders of Palestinians in Gaza”. She pointed out that more than 23,000 people have already died in the conflict. About 70% of the victims are women and children.

Israel is expected to argue its actions were self-defense.

Israel’s pres. Isaac Herzog labeled South Africa’s complaint as “barbaric and outrageous” and says it is Israel’s absolute right to defend itself. This will then also be the country’s defense in the UN’s highest court.

“We will be in the International Court of Justice proudly presenting our case of self-defense … under international humanitarian law,” Herzog said.

He believes Israel’s army did its “absolute best under extremely difficult circumstances to make sure there were no unintended consequences and no civilian deaths”.