Canada must support South Africa’s ICJ application to prevent genocide in Gaza: CJPME

Montreal, January 5, 2024 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) calls on the Canadian government to support South Africa’s application to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to protect Palestinians from genocidal actions by Israel. Last week, South Africa invoked the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (‘Genocide Convention’) to initiate proceedings against Israel, another State party, based on its obligations to prevent and punish genocide. In a letter sent yesterday to Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, CJPME urged Canada to make a formal submission to the ICJ expressing support for the South African application against Israel.

“As a signatory to the Genocide Convention, Canada has an obligation and a duty to prevent and punish the crime of genocide wherever it occurs,” wrote Michael Bueckert, Vice President of CJPME. “South Africa’s application to the ICJ has brought forward an urgent and compelling case demonstrating that Israel is committing acts of genocide right now against Palestinians in Gaza,” added Bueckert.

The ICJ has scheduled initial public hearings for January 11 and 12, 2024, and Israel has announced that it will participate. As a State party to the Genocide Convention, Canada can intervene in the proceedings as a State party in support of South Africa, either now or during potential proceedings on the merits. Yesterday, Global Affairs Canada told the Globe and Mail that is “aware” of the case and that it supports the role of the ICJ, but would not say whether the government plans to intervene. CJPME is concerned that Canada will end up attempting to quietly undermine South Africa’s application at the ICJ, as Canada asked the ICJ last summer to decline to make an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories.

CJPME’s letter notes parallels between South Africa’s allegations of genocide in Gaza with Canada’s accusations of genocide in Myanmar, as outlined in a joint Declaration of Intervention to the ICJ with the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and France. The letter also notes that the provisional measures requested by South Africa appear to align with principles already expressed by the Canadian government itself in respect of the situation in Gaza, namely an end to the killing of women and children and unrestricted humanitarian access. “If Canada is serious about bringing a sustainable end to the violence, and if it is to remain consistent with its own legal position articulated in The Gambia v. Myanmar, it should put its full weight behind South Africa’s application to the ICJ,” wrote Bueckert.

More than 22,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in Gaza since October 7, 2023, 70% of them women and children, while Israel’s withholding of water, food, fuel, and electricity has put the entire population at serious risk of mass deaths from famine, dehydration, and disease. South Africa’s application argues that these acts are “genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group, that being the part of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip.” Dozens of UN experts have previously warned that Israel’s actions in Gaza “point to a genocide in the making.”