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Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh Guardian News/YouTube
UN Court

Irish lawyer tells Hague that Gaza is 'first genocide in history' being broadcast in 'real-time'

South Africa has launched a case at the International Court of Justice arguing that Israel is breaking its commitments under the UN Genocide Convention.

AN IRISH LAWYER has told the International Court of Justice that conflict in Gaza is the “first genocide in history” being broadcast in “real-time”. 

Launching a landmark case at the top UN court today, South Africa accused Israel of breaching the UN Genocide Convention, a treaty signed in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust. 

It is arguing that even the deadly 7 October Hamas attack could not justify such alleged actions. 

Pretoria has lodged an urgent appeal at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to force Israel to “immediately suspend” its military operations in Gaza.

Israel has dismissed the case as “atrocious” and “preposterous” and vowed to set out a robust defence tomorrow.

Irish lawyer Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh on the team advising South Africa on its case against Israel. 

Speaking at the case being heard in The Hague this morning, Ní Ghrálaigh said: “The international community continues to fail the Palestinian people, despite the overt dehumanising genocidal rhetoric by Israeli governmental and military officials matched by the Israeli army’s actions on the ground, despite the horror of the genocide against the Palestinian people being livestreamed from Gaza to our mobile phones, computers and television screens.”

She said this is the “first genocide in history where its victims are broadcasting their own destruction in real-time in the desperate and so far vain hope that the world might do something”.

“The world should be absolutely horrified. The world should be absolutely outraged. There is no safe space in Gaza and the world should be ashamed,” Ní Ghrálaigh told the court.

Ní Ghrálaigh recalled to the court the UN secretary general and its officials describing the situation in Gaza “as ‘a crisis of humanity’, ‘a living hell’, ‘a bloodbath’, ‘a situation of utter deepening and unmatched horror where an entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival on a massive scale’”.

“As an undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs stated last Friday, ‘Gaza has become a place of death and despair’,” she said.

The Irish lawyer told the hearing that there is an “urgent need” for “provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza against the irreparable prejudice caused by Israel’s violations of the Genocide Convention”.

As a fellow signatory to the treaty, South Africa can take Israel to the ICJ, which rules on disputes between countries and is often described as the World Court.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has long been a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause, often linking it to its own historic struggle against the white-minority government, which had cooperative relations with Israel.

South Africa has acknowledged the “particular weight of responsibility” of accusing Israel of genocide. It “unequivocally” condemned the Hamas attacks that sparked off the conflict in Gaza.

The court also heard today from Pretoria’s Justice Minister Ronald Lamola. 

“No armed attack on a state territory, no matter how serious … can provide justification for or defend breaches of the convention,” he said. 

Another lawyer for South Africa, Adila Hassim, said Israel’s bombing campaign is aimed at the “destruction of Palestinian life” and had pushed Palestinians “to the brink of famine”.

“Genocides are never declared in advance, but this court has the benefit of the past 13 weeks of evidence that shows incontrovertibly a pattern of conduct and related intention that justifies a plausible claim of genocidal acts,” she said.

Israel response

Israel President Isaac Herzog has already hinted at his country’s likely defence against what he called an “atrocious and preposterous … claim”.

“We will present proudly our case of using self defence … under international humanitarian law,” he said.

Herzog said the Israeli army was “doing its utmost under extremely complicated circumstances on the ground to make sure that there will be no unintended consequences and no civilian casualties”.

The United States is backing its ally Israel, with the State Department describing the charges as “unfounded”.

“In fact, it is those who are violently attacking Israel who continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

As it is an urgent procedure, the ICJ could rule in a matter of weeks.

Its rulings are final and cannot be appealed. However, countries do not always follow the court’s verdicts – the ICJ has ordered Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine, for example.

But a court ruling against Israel would certainly increase political pressure on the country, with many speculating it could serve as a pretext for sanctions.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2024

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