The EU and European states must ensure that the ICJ's provisional measures against genocide are respected!

The EU and European states must ensure that the ICJ’s provisional measures against genocide are respected!

This open letter was sent by the signatories below to the foreign ministers of the following countries: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Poland, Italy, Greece, Germany, Malta , Ireland and Luxembourg.

Mr Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Since January 29, the Israeli war against the Palestinian people of Gaza has entered its 115th day, with more than 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza killed and 63,000 injured. This figure represents a total of 4% of the entire population of Gaza. Since October 7, 2023, the average number of civilians killed per day in Gaza exceeds that of any conflict in the 21st century, and approximately 70% of them are women and children. Since the attacks began, Israel has targeted civilian areas to the point that “no place in Gaza is considered safe,” with refugee camps, hospitals, schools and mosques being targeted for bombing. More than 85% of Palestinians in Gaza have been internally displaced and 60% of available housing in Gaza has been destroyed or damaged. This violent siege takes place in a context of 57 years of military occupation of the Palestinian territories and 17 years of blockade of the Gaza Strip.

South Africa has initiated proceedings, in accordance with Article IX of the Genocide Convention, before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s responsibility for the genocide perpetrated against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. . This principled approach is important for accountability and the restoration of the international legal order. On January 11, the South African legal team presented its arguments before the ICJ, describing how Israel can plausibly be accused of committing acts proscribed by Article 2 of the Convention and requesting preliminary measures to put end the massacre and forced displacement of Palestinians. The next day, Israel appeared before the Court to refute these arguments, asserting that the elements of the crime of genocide were not met.

On January 26, the ICJ issued a historic ruling in which it found it plausible that Israel was committing genocide against the Palestinian people of Gaza. The interim measures include thatIsrael will take steps to prevent genocidal acts, that Israel will prevent and punish incitement to commit genocide, that Israel will ensure the provision of immediate humanitarian aid to Gaza, and that Israel will ensure the preservation of evidence linked to allegations of genocide. Additionally, Israel was ordered to report to the Court, within one month, on the implementation of the provisional measures.

Although this is a momentous decision to ensure that Israel is held internationally accountable, the response from the EU and its member states has been unsatisfactory. Not enough European states have declared their intention to adhere to the legal obligations established by the provisional measures or to ensure that Israel implements them, although the ICJ is one of the few credible, legitimate and neutral tools that makes it possible to require States to respect their international obligations and a mechanism to guarantee the rule of law in international relations.

The European response was further complicated by the decision of several EU states to suspend the disbursement of funds to UNRWA after accusations that 12 members of its staff may have participated in the October 7 attacks. UNRWA is one of the main aid organizations for Palestinians in Gaza, and its suspension worsens the current humanitarian crisis, where 500,000 Palestinians are at risk of starvation due to the Israeli siege. In this case, the removal of funding by States could be assimilated to participation in genocidal acts, in particular the “intentional subjection of a group to conditions of existence intended to bring about its total or partial physical destruction”, as the stipulates the Genocide Convention.

The comparison with the broad support given by EU member states to the ICJ’s preliminary rulings in the context of the wars in Ukraine and Myanmar was not lost on the Palestinians. The difference in treatment between Ukraine and Palestine has led many to note that Europe clearly operates a policy of double standards when it comes to the application of the Genocide Convention.

If European states and the EU continue to use these avenues of accountability so little, they risk isolating themselves on the global stage and losing their position as international guarantors of human rights and international law. European states must remember their colonial past, those who were colonizers and those who were colonized, as well as their history of genocide and settler colonialism, respond accordingly and ensure that “more never that” does not remain an empty slogan.

The EU and its member states must ensure that Israel complies with the Court’s order of interim measures and state publicly that it must do so, as they are binding under international law. They must also ensure that international accountability is implemented in all cases where these measures are violated by the State of Israel. Furthermore, the EU and its member states must call for a ceasefire to ensure that no genocidal acts can be committed by the State of Israel and ensure that they do not cooperate in potential genocidal acts by suspending arms trade with Israel. Finally, as mentioned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, European states that have suspended their funding to UNRWA must resume and increase their funding to the organization or risk being complicit genocidal acts.

EuroMed Rights and the undersigned believe that it is of the utmost importance that EU Member States and the EU itself publicly support and guarantee compliance with the ICJ decision on interim measures in the case ongoing genocide in Palestine, reaffirming the role of the Court as a neutral, legitimate and respected mechanism of international accountability, and submitting written declarations to the ICJ, providing legal expertise in the correct interpretation of the convention when the opportunity presents itself.

The Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling – WCLAC
- The Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights – JLAC
- Palestinian Human Rights Organization – PHRO
- Kayan feminist organization
- Palestinian Center for Human Rights – PCHR
- International Institute for Nonviolent Action – NOVACT
- European Trade Union Network for Justice in Palestine
- European coordination of committees and associations for Palestine – ECCP
- France Palestine Solidarity Association – AFPS
- Al-Haq
- EuroMed Rights