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International Court of Justice

'It has to stop': Ireland will intervene in South Africa's genocide case against Israel

Foreign Affairs minister Micheál Martin there are ‘blatant violation of international humanitarian law on a mass scale’ in Gaza.


FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Micheál Martin has confirmed that Ireland will intervene in South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

The decision follows analysis of legal and policy issues arising in the case, as well as consultation with South Africa.

The Tánaiste said this afternoon: “That analysis and consultation has now concluded. Ireland will be intervening.”

In a statement to The Journal, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said it is expected that the intervention will be filed towards the end of the year, after South Africa submits its memorial to the Court.

It means the Irish Government will officially intervene in the case against Israel under the 1948 Genocide Convention at the court in The Hague in the Netherlands.

It is currently not known what legal points the State is relying on in its declaration.

Martin noted that the Government declared its intention to “urgently consider filing a declaration of intervention” following the Provisional Measures ordered by the Court on 26 January.

These provisional measures included the ICJ calling on Israel to do everything it can to “prevent the commission of all acts within the scope” of the Genocide Convention.

A Department spokesperson told The Journal that engagement with South Africa started from late January/early February, after these provisional measures were ordered by the Court.

Martin noted that intervention as a third party in a case before the ICJ is “complex” and “relatively rare”. 

Martin added: “It is for the Court to determine whether genocide is being committed.

“But I want to be clear in reiterating what I have said many times in the last few months; what we saw on 7 October in Israel, and what we are seeing in Gaza now, represents the blatant violation of international humanitarian law on a mass scale.”

He pointed to the withholding of aid, targeting of civilians and infrastructure, the “indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in populated areas” and the “collective punishment of an entire population”.

Martin also noted that half of the population of Gaza face imminent famine and the entire population faces acute food insecurity. 

“The list goes on,” said Martin. “It has to stop.”

“The view of the international community is clear. Enough is enough.

“The UN Security Council has demanded an immediate ceasefire, the unconditional release of hostages and the lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale.”

South Africa moved to take legal action against Israel under the 1948 Genocide Convention over the Israeli Defence Forces action in Gaza after the 7 October attacks by Hamas in December.

In January, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel should “take all measures within its power” to prevent the commission of all acts within the scope of Article Two of the Genocide Convention.

While the court stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire, it ruled that Israel  must take “immediate and effective measures” to enable the provision of urgent humanitarian in Gaza “to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians”.

Speaking to reporters outside Government Buildings this morning, Minister Simon Harris said he wants to hear from the Tánaiste at Cabinet regarding the move to intervene in the case. 

“There’s a human catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes, in front of the world’s eyes. The world cannot turn a blind eye and, in fact, I think the phrase human catastrophe doesn’t even capture the scale … of devastation that is being seen in Gaza,” the soon-to-be Taoiseach said. 

Harris said he is “very proud of the approach that’s being taken by Ireland, I include the Irish Government in that but Ireland more broadly, in speaking truth to power”. 

“I think what needs to happen is very clear. There needs to be an immediate ceasefire, all of the hostages need to be released unconditionally, there needs to be a flow of humanitarian aid,” he said. 

Opposition parties and members of the public called for the State to intervene in the case in January, but Government remained hesitant to make a quick decision on the matter.

Ahead of the court hearing, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said these calls were “trying to crease division“. Later, the Government agreed it would review the decision carefully.

Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy has said that Ireland’s actions must be “meaningful”.

He added that the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, Francesca Albanese, was correct in her assertion that the Irish government has yet to match supportive rhetoric with concrete actions that would hold Israel accountable for its crimes.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin, Jane Matthews, and Diarmuid Pepper