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South Africa submits ‘urgent request for additional measures’ to the ICJ as Israel attacks Rafah

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced on Tuesday that South Africa has filed an “urgent request for additional measures” in their genocide case against Israel, citing the “unprecedented military offensive against Rafah” and recent statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The request quotes the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGOs operating on the ground such as the Norwegian Refugee Council and Save the Children, who have warned of a “bloodbath”; that “expanded hostilities in Rafah could collapse the humanitarian response”; and that “what happens next” would “be beyond our worst nightmares.”

South Africa also cites dire warnings from UN officials and agencies such as UNRWA, UNICEF, OCHA, Secretary-General António Guterres, and Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese.

Given the “situation of extreme emergency,” South Africa requests that “the court consider exercising its power under Article 75(1) of the Rules of the Court,” which provides that:

“The Court may at any time decide to examine proprio motu whether the circumstances of the case require the indication of provisional measures which ought to be taken or complied with by any or all of the parties.”

South Africa says: “The Court retains full discretion to exercise this power in the Application of the Convention (…) without any hearing or submissions by parties, and should do so, pursuant to the precedent case of LaGrand (Germany v. United States of America), given the extreme urgency of the situation and the imminent risk of harm…”

The request was filed on Monday, and was reported by the ICJ in a press release on Tuesday.

Days earlier, UNRWA’s Director of Gaza Affairs Thomas White warned that the humanitarian operation for the entire Gaza Strip is based in Rafah, and that they would “not be able to effectively or safely run operations from a city that is under assault from the Israeli army.”

Some of the other quotes cited by South Africa in their request:

  • UN Securary-General António Guterres: A large-scale military assault against Rafah “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian
    nightmare with untold regional consequences.” (source)
  • UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese: “The risk of a massacre of unparalleled scale looms on the horizon.” (source)
  • UNICEF: The “last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets and water systems” could be rendered non-functional, and “[w]ithout them, hunger and disease will skyrocket, taking more child lives.” (source)
  • UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini: “Any large-scale military operation among this population can only lead to an additional layer of endless tragedy that’s unfolding”; “a military offensive in the middle of these completely exposed, vulnerable people” is “a recipe for disaster” to the extent that he is “almost becoming wordless,” not “know[ing] how to describe this.” (source)
  • UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: “We must do everything possible within our power to avoid” the “large-scale loss of civilian lives” to which “intensified hostilities in Rafah … could lead.” (source)

Nicaragua officially filed for permission to intervene as a party to South Afirica’s genocide case against Israel last week, requesting that “the Court to adjudge and declare… that the State of Israel has breached and continues to breach its obligations under the Genocide Convention.”

In its application, Nicaragua states that its legal interests in the case “stem from the rights and obligations imposed by the Genocide Convention on all State Parties” and flow from “the universal character both of the condemnation of genocide and of the cooperation required ‘in order to liberate mankind from such an odious scourge.’”

The ICJ is also scheduled to hold six days of public hearings on Israel’s “ongoing violation” of Palestinians’ right to self-determination next week as part of a separate case. 52 countries are expected to participate.


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