Point-blank: ICC too

Mohamed Salmawy
Tuesday 23 Jan 2024


As South Africa (a non-Arab party) brought its case against Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the charge of genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, a hundred lawyers from Chile (also a non-Arab party) filed a case with the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging Israeli officials with war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Palestinian people. Whereas the ICJ adjudicates in cases between states, the ICC rules on cases brought against individuals. Although ICJ rulings are binding to all states, it does not possess a mechanism to enforce them. ICJ deliberations also take a long time because the court investigates practices and conduct of states, meaning the totality of a government’s agencies and institutions, in contrast to the ICC which focuses on the actions of specified individuals. So, for example, in the case that Gambia brought against Myanmar in 2019 for genocide against the Rohingya, the ICJ’s deliberations have taken over four years so far and it still has not issued a final ruling. The time factor may therefore be the weak point that Israel will exploit to obstruct the ICJ’s proceedings on South Africa’s case charging Israel with genocide in Gaza.

The ICC, for its part, has the power to issue arrest warrants against suspects. This means the new move may be more effective in deterring Israeli politicians since any ICC member state would be required to apprehend any Israeli officials wanted by the ICC if they entered that state’s territory. Recall, that after the ICC put out an arrest warrant against Putin in March 2023, Putin did not attend an international summit in South Africa in several months later. If he had attended, South Africa would have had to arrest him and hand him over to the ICC.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 25 January, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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