UN court gives ‘reasoned but political’ ruling


Experts believe that the International Court of Justice’s ruling last Friday, that Israel must take steps to ensure that genocide is not committed, is not so clearly a “victory” for South Africa, even though the ANC was quick to celebrate it as such.

The ruling was in response to a request by South Africa to declare Israel’s actions against Hamas in Gaza as genocide and to call for an immediate ceasefire. However, a ceasefire was not ordered by the court.

Reasoned judgment

Prof. Koos Malan, constitutional juris attached to Sakeliga’s center for constitutional dynamics, believes that the court actually gave a “fairly reasoned and balanced verdict”.

At the same time, of course, the court also gave a political judgment, in that he was able to succeed in protecting his own integrity, explains Malan.

“If the court were to give a verdict that completely humiliates Israel, it would risk compromising its own integrity.”

However, because the court did not order Israel to stop its war effort, it did not come too close to Israel.

“Otherwise it would allow South Africa, or the ANC, to win too much.”

Prof. André Thomashausen, emeritus professor of international law at Unisa, also believes that the ruling is actually very good for Israel.

“The most important of the seven orders that were given is what the court does not say – which is an order for an immediate ceasefire. The court simply states the most obvious, namely that Israel and its soldiers must not commit genocide and genocidal acts. Then the court also orders that Israel does everything in its power to stop the incitement of hate speech, and the continuation of humanitarian aid, with which no one, not even Israel, disagrees.”

The Israeli government may benefit from keeping this in mind in all their statements and reactions to the order, says Thomashausen.

Sovereignty intact

Malan also believes that everything the court ordered Israel to do are things Israel is already doing.

“No independent agency or body has been designated to oversee to make sure Israel abides by the verdict.

“In that respect, it was also a political verdict, because by implication Israel is not humiliated in the execution of the verdict.”

In the end, therefore, Israel has the discretion in which way it wants to implement the ruling, which means that its sovereignty is actually left untouched.

The court did order Israel to report to the World Court a month after the verdict on what steps it is taking to implement the court order. A further month after this reporting, South Africa as an applicant in the case can respond to this again.

However, Thomashausen believes that this action will only lead to further bickering.

“In a month, Israel will simply report that they do comply with the order. After that, South Africa will probably again try to provide evidence to the contrary. In the end, not much really changes.”

True intentions

In this respect, South Africa actually did not get what they wanted out of the case at all, says Malan.

“South Africa firstly wanted a finding of genocide and secondly, for the benefit of Hamas, to get a halt to Israel’s war action.”

With this, according to Malan, South Africa has completely failed.

“Directly after the verdict, (Naledi Pandor, Minister of Foreign Affairs) said that the International Court of Justice’s verdict implies that Israel cannot carry out the order without a ceasefire. It is an infamous lie.”

This shows what their real aim was and how disappointed they really are in the verdict, explains Malan.

“Less than 24 hours after the verdict, Ronald Lamola also indicated that he will continue to charge certain individuals in the Israeli government with war crimes before the International Criminal Court.

“Through which he naturally escalates the enmity between South Africa, the ANC more specifically, and Israel and underlines his solidarity with Hamas and Iran.”

Reputation does suffer

Despite South Africa’s disappointment, the ruling does have adverse consequences for Israel, Malan believes.

“The court could only give the current verdict on the basis of an indication of possible acts of genocide.”

Malan believes that this causes great reputational damage to Israel, as far as its relations with its biggest allies in the USA and Britain are concerned.

“If a certain power makes itself guilty of a crime such as genocide, an aid worker is ultimately an accomplice,” says Malan.

“Israel has also suffered reputational damage due to the court’s rulings on bellicose attitudes maintained in Israel’s government.

“This suggests that one is dealing with a lot of people in the Israeli cabinet who yearn for genocide. This is of course also beneficial for the ANC on behalf of South Africa, because he can show off and pretend that he was indeed successful.”

Made archenemies

Malan believes this case emphasizes once again that over the past 30 years, South Africa has never had such bad relations with any other state as it currently has with Israel.

“At the same time, he also brought the USA and Western Europe into the harness. There is a clear difference between the way in which South Africa’s Brics allies behave, versus the way in which South Africa behaves.

“There is therefore a distance between South Africa and its allies, which stems from the fact that the ANC misjudges the entire Brics grouping. He sees it as an absolute single-minded anti-Western alliance, which is not the case at all.”

Ultimately, in these “image polishing missions”, South Africa alienates allies on all sides of the spectrum, without making a significant contribution to international law or peace solutions.

Powerless UN

Thomashausen believes that the whole matter is actually only sad when viewed on its own.

“This once again proves the UN’s inability to intervene in the use of force. Thus the use of military force becomes the new normal in our current international order, with the UN unable to stop it.”

Today (Friday) the World Court must decide whether it has jurisdiction to rule on a case brought by Ukraine against Russia. This case was already brought before the court in February 2022, following Russia’s ruling that its invasion of Ukraine took place in an attempt to stop alleged genocide.