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Irish Government urged by charity to support South African case against Israel

Demonstrators during a pro-Palestine protest (Brian Lawless/PA)
Demonstrators during a pro-Palestine protest (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Irish Government has been urged by a charity to support South Africa’s legal case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Trocaire, an aid agency of the Irish Catholic Church, called on Ireland to fulfil its legal obligation to prevent genocide by “urgently” assessing the case of Gaza.

It said that Ireland’s calls for a ceasefire, though welcome, were no longer enough to prevent “further atrocities”.

Local health authorities reported that 25,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the Israeli operation, launched after Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis and took 250 people hostage on October 7.

Thousands of Palestinians have been injured and the majority of Gaza’s population have been displaced.

“The Irish Government must assess whether there is a risk that genocide is being committed in Gaza,” said Caoimhe de Barra, the chief executive of Trocaire.

She said that assessing this risk is “a first step” towards fulfilling Ireland’s duty under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

The charity also called on Ireland to release a statement supporting South Africa’s case, specifically the provisional measures requested by South Africa for a suspension of its military operations in Gaza.

It also called on Ireland to “as soon as possible, join the case as an intervener in support of South Africa’s case as it did in the Ukraine v Russia case”.

“Accountability and respect for international humanitarian and human rights law are critical if these repeated cycles of indiscriminate violence and wanton destruction is to end,” Ms de Barra said.

Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said at the weekend that Ireland would assess the legal case by South Africa once the preliminary stage had ended.

The Tanaiste said Ireland will review the case being presented and decide whether to join after that, as had been done in relation to Ukraine’s case at the ICJ.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said previously that Irish government does not intend to join South Africa’s case, and there is a need to “be very careful” of accusing a Jewish state of genocide.

He said: “I would just think we need to be a little bit careful about using words like that unless we’re absolutely convinced that they’re the appropriate ones.”

Under the Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

Ms de Barra said: “The Irish Government must act urgently as the Israeli military is killing an average of 250 Palestinians per day in Gaza, a higher daily death rate than any other twenty-first-century armed conflict.

“Israel’s unrelenting military campaign on the Gaza Strip has resulted in more than 25,000 thousand deaths and the displacement of 1.9 million people.

“One in four people in Gaza are facing immediate risk of starvation. These acts are war crimes.

“The desperate situation endured by the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip has led UN experts and Trocaire partners to warn that there is an immediate risk of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

“Ireland has taken a leadership position in recent months in calling for a ceasefire. However, this is no longer enough. Now is the time for measures to be taken to end the violence and suffering and to prevent further atrocities.

“The events of October 7, perpetrated by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, are also war crimes and they must be held accountable. As horrific as these attacks were, they cannot be used as justification for the actions of Israel towards the civilians of Gaza.”