“This is not the moment for the court to sit back and be silent. It’s necessary to assert its authority.”
This was the strong and overarching statement made by Professor Vaughan Lowe KC, a practising advocate at the Essex Court Chambers in the UK who was one of the final speakers on behalf of South Africa in its case against Israel.
South Africa’s legal team has concluded its arguments at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in The Netherlands on Thursday, marking the first leg of the arguments.
Lowe said South Africa had kept its application in this case within the Genocide Convention.
“One may ask why has South Africa has not sought an interdict against Hamas. Hamas is not a state and can’t be a party to the Genocide Convention and to these proceedings,” he explained.
Not all acts of violence constitute genocide. Genocide requires the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, or religious group. But, Lowe said, despite the fact that what Israel was doing in Gaza may also constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, there was still no defence to committing genocide.
“Months of continuing bombing and cutting off food, water, electricity, and communication to an entire population cannot credibly be argued to be a manhunt for members of Hamas. It is an indiscriminate attack, killing, maiming, and terrorising the entire population of Gaza.
“Israel’s actions both attack Palestinians in Gaza directly and prevent humanitarian aid from reaching them,” he said.
He further emphasised that it’s “no use” that Israel says it does whatever it can to minimise the deaths of innocent men, women, and children, as the use of 2,000-pound bombs and relentless bombing of even “safe” areas of Gaza tell another story.
“If any military operation, no matter how carefully it’s carried out, is carried out pursuant to an intention to destroy people in whole or in part, it violates the Genocide Convention. It must stop,” he said.“No matter how monstrous an attack or provocation, genocide is never a permitted response.”
He further accused the Israeli government of being intent on destroying the Palestinians in Gaza as a group and doing nothing to prevent or punish the actions of others who supported that aim.
“Nothing can ever justify genocide.
“Genocidal attacks on the whole of Gaza and the whole of its population with the intent to destroy them cannot be justified,” Lowe added.