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The Peace Palace, International Court of Justice, in The Hague, Netherlands Alamy Stock Photo

Irish senators call on Government to join South Africa's genocide case against Israel

Last week, South Africa submitted a case to the UN’s top court accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

MEMBERS OF THE Seanad’s Civil Engagement Group have written a letter to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste asking the Government to join South Africa in charging Israel with genocide through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). 

The group includes senators Lynn Ruane, Frances Black, Alice-Mary Higgins and Eileen Flynn. 

Senator Black posted the letter on X (formerly Twitter) today saying, “it is not enough to passively call for a ceasefire” and that “Ireland must take action to prevent the slaughter in Gaza”. 

Last week, South Africa submitted a case to the UN’s top court accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel has rejected the accusation and said it will defend itself at the Court. 

The first hearing in the case is set to take place next week in the Hague in the Netherlands. 

“South Africa’s application to the Court presents a rigorous legal argument that Israel has consistently and flagrantly breached international law and specifically the Genocide Convention by its actions in the last number of months,” the senators’ letter said. 

The letter quotes directly from the South African application throughout and calls on Ireland to initiate or join in proceedings at the ICJ.

“As a State party to the Convention, Ireland has an obligation to ensure it is being upheld and in this context has a clear and urgent responsibility to initiate proceedings or join in the proceedings initiated by South Africa at the Courts,” the letter said. 

“The basis of the Genocide Convention is that genocide represents the most egregious crime against humanity and should not be allowed to happen again and it is clear that the Israeli Government must be held accountable under the Convention.” 

The South African case represents the first official, state-level accusation of genocide levelled against Israel since it began its siege, bombardment and subsequent ground invasion of Gaza in the aftermath of Hamas’ deadly 7 October attacks.

Turkey and Malaysia have since announced their support of the South African application. 

As early as mid-November, a group of UN experts was already warning of the possibility of Israel committing genocide, citing statements of intent from high-ranking Israeli officials calling for the total destruction of Gaza and its population. 

The death toll in Gaza has now reached at least 22,700 people, according to the Gazan health ministry and the UN has described the territory as “uninhabitable”. 

Ahead of the four-month anniversary of the conflict, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza was “more urgent than ever” and warned of the consequences of violence spreading throughout the region. 

He also stressed the urgency of the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held in Gaza and “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” to the enclave.

“Events across the region in recent days are also a stark reminder of the potential for further escalation,” he said, referring to the Israeli assassination of a Hamas leader in Beirut, Lebanon. 

“A widening of this conflict would have devastating consequences for the region and for the world.

“The international community simply cannot allow further civilian suffering and deaths. I urge all parties in the region to exercise restraint and avoid escalation.”