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Ambassador Carlos Jose Arguello Gomez, right, and Alain Pellet, left, a lawyer representing Nicaragua. Alamy
The Hague

Germany accused of 'facilitating genocide' in Gaza in ICJ case taken by Nicaragua

Germany rejects the case brought by Nicaragua.

PRELIMINARY HEARINGS HAVE opened at the International Court of Justice in a case that seeks an end to German aid to Israel, based on claims that Berlin is enabling acts of genocide and breaches of international humanitarian law in conflict in Gaza.

Nicaragua argues that by giving Israel political, financial and military support and by defunding the UN aid agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, Germany is “facilitating the commission of genocide and, in any case has failed in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide”.

Opening Nicaragua’s case at the International Court of Justice, the country’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Carlos Jose Arguello Gomez, told the 16-judge panel that “Germany is failing to honour its own obligation to prevent genocide or to ensure respect of international humanitarian law”.

While the case brought by Nicaragua centres on Germany, it indirectly takes aim at Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, during which more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

The conflict began following the deadly 7 October attacks when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people.

Israel strongly denies that its assault amounts to genocidal acts, saying it is acting in self defence. Israeli legal adviser Tal Becker told judges at the court earlier this year that the country is fighting a “war it did not start and did not want”.

Germany rejects the case brought by Nicaragua.

“Germany has breached neither the Genocide Convention nor international humanitarian law, and we will set this out in detail before the International Court of Justice,” German Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sebastian Fischer told reporters in Berlin on Friday.

tania-von-uslar-gleichen-germanys-legal-adviser-and-director-general-for-legal-affairs-of-the-german-foreign-ministry-left-and-the-member-of-germanys-legal-team-christian-j-tams-wait-for-the-s Germany's lawyers, Tania von Uslar-Gleichen the Director-General for Legal Affairs of the German Foreign Ministry, left, and the member of Germany's legal team, Christian J. Tams reject the case brought by Nicaragua. Alamy Alamy

Nicaragua has asked the court to hand down preliminary orders known as provisional measures, including that Germany “immediately suspend its aid to Israel, in particular its military assistance including military equipment in so far as this aid may be used in the violation of the Genocide Convention” and international law.

The court will likely take weeks to deliver its preliminary decision, and Nicaragua’s case will probably drag on for years.

‘Our history makes it a perpetual task for us to stand with Israel’

Today’s hearing at the world court comes amid growing calls for allies to stop supplying arms to Israel as its six-month campaign continues to lay waste to Gaza.

The offensive has displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s population. Food is scarce, the UN says famine is approaching and few Palestinians have been able to leave the besieged territory.

On Friday, the UN’s top human rights body called on countries to stop selling or shipping weapons to Israel. The US and Germany opposed the resolution.

Germany has for decades been a staunch supporter of Israel.

Days after the 7 October attacks, chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “Our own history, our responsibility arising from the Holocaust, makes it a perpetual task for us to stand up for the security of the state of Israel.”

a-pro-palestinian-activist-works-on-a-protest-poster-near-the-international-court-of-justice-or-world-court-in-the-hague-netherlands-monday-april-8-2024-prior-to-the-start-of-a-two-days-hearing A pro-Palestinian activist working on a protest poster near the International Court of Justice this morning. Alamy Alamy

Berlin, however, has gradually shifted its tone as civilian casualties in Gaza have soared, becoming increasingly critical of the humanitarian situation in Gaza and speaking out against a ground offensive in Rafah.

Nicaragua’s government, which has historical links with Palestinian organisations dating back to their support for the 1979 Sandinista revolution, was itself accused earlier this year by UN-backed human rights experts of systematic human rights abuses “tantamount to crimes against humanity.”

The government of President Daniel Ortega fiercely rejected the allegations.

In January, the ICJ imposed provisional measures ordering Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and acts of genocide in Gaza. The orders came in a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of breaching the Genocide Convention.

The court last week ordered Israel to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including opening more land crossings to allow food, water, fuel and other supplies into the war-ravaged enclave.

Press Association