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South Africa genocide case ‘valid’, but government will await ICJ outcome

Tanaiste Micheal Martin said it is not possible to join the case yet as it is only at the preliminary stages (Niall Carson/PA)
Tanaiste Micheal Martin said it is not possible to join the case yet as it is only at the preliminary stages (Niall Carson/PA)

The Irish premier said that South Africa’s legal case against Israel is “valid”, but that Ireland will wait until the main case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague is filed before taking a decision on any “intervention”.

Leo Varadkar also said he doesn’t believe any order from ICJ will bring an end to the conflict in Gaza.

Speaking in the Irish parliament, Mr Varadkar said that the government is committing to support any decision of the ICJ on preliminary measures.

His comments come as opposition politicians criticised the government’s “vague” position in relation to South Africa’s legal case.

Leo Varadkar visits Galway
Irish premier Leo Varadkar said Ireland is committed to support any decision made by the ICJ

Mr Varadkar said: “I’m sad to say I don’t believe that an order from the ICJ will bring about an end to this conflict. It didn’t in Ukraine and it may be four years before the case is finally decided.

“So this conflict will be brought to an end by diplomacy and by politics and that’s why we’re focusing on diplomacy and politics.”

He added: “We’re also committing to support any decision of the ICJ on preliminary measures. These will be final and binding on the parties concerned.

“We’re also committing to consider an intervention in the South Africa versus Israel case at the ICJ. This is done at the point when South Africa would file its main, memorial case.

“To date, while some countries have indicated that they will intervene, none have yet because that doesn’t happen until that point.”

He added: “We do agree that Africa’s case is valid.”

He said that the Attorney General will travel to The Hague in February to make a submission in an ongoing case involving Israel and Palestine, which is separate from South Africa’s case.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said the government “doesn’t want to even contemplate the word genocide” when it comes to Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“That’s why you’re refusing to take a stance now and signal your support for South Africa in the Court of Justice,” she added.

“You want to wait until you have the cover of the preliminary ruling and then you’ll consider your options. This approach lacks courage.

“It’s at odds with the annihilation that we’re witnessing and your words of support for Palestinians. While your government is faffing around, other countries are making their intentions clear.

“Germany has already announced they will intervene in the case on the side of Israel, saying they firmly and explicitly reject the accusation of genocide.

“The US and the UK have also made their views clear, they rubbish South Africa’s case as meritless and unjustified.

“Western countries are lining up to support Israel.

“There could not be more of a pressing need for countries like Ireland to signal the support for South Africa now and your government’s claim it cannot simply isn’t credible.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Ireland’s deputy premier Micheal Martin said that Ireland had not yet made a decision and would wait to assess South Africa’s legal case.

The Tanaiste also said that it is not possible to join the case yet as it is only at the preliminary stages.

Demonstrators at several pro-Palestine protests in Dublin have called on the government to support South Africa’s case, and Irish charity Trocaire has urged Ireland to assess itself whether there is a risk that genocide is being committed.

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

The charity also called on Ireland to publicly support South Africa’s call for interim measures, such as a humanitarian ceasefire and for aid to be delivered unhindered into the Gaza Strip.

Asked about South Africa’s case at the ICJ on his way into Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Martin said: “It’s important to make that point, no-one has joined because no one can right now.

“That misinformation has gathered that somehow we haven’t joined. Nobody has joined.”

The Government will later table a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, ahead of a vote on Wednesday on a parliamentary motion by the Social Democrats calling on Ireland to support South Africa’s case, opposition parties said they had yet to see the wording.

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said that she had sought cross-party support for a separate motion that would call on the government “to investigate the possibility” of joining the South African case.

“We believe they could join the case now or indicate a willingness to join it at a much higher level,” Ms Bacik said.

“We’re working with government to see a timing for agreeing that cross-party motion, I think there is a certain momentum there,” she said, adding that she had been in touch with all three coalition party leaders.

“But I’m really trying to work constructively with government parties and opposition parties to see if we can form a common purpose in support of Gaza.”

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon said that “unity happens when we vote for it in the Dail, it doesn’t happen in some behind-the-scenes backroom deals”.

“I’m not going to wait for some illusion of unity, I’m going to act, that’s what people who are contacting my office are asking that we do.”

He said that as Germany had already signalled it would support Israel’s case at the court, Ireland should signal its intention to support South Africa.

“We don’t have to wait to look at the legal arguments made by the South African case – and the incredible Irish human rights lawyers out there – we can also start our own case.

“The government can actually move to initiate their own findings. We appreciate that that’s not going to happen tomorrow, but the process needs to begin.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that the Tanaiste stating that they would consider South Africa’s case showed that the government is “under pressure”.

He said a protest is being organised outside the Dail at 5.30pm on Wednesday “to pile the pressure” on the government to support South Africa’s case at the preliminary stage.

“Vague references to what they may do in the future or simply rhetorical calls for a ceasefire are not good enough,” he said.

“To be honest, talking about joining the case later, possibly, when there’s a genocide happening now, is worse than useless.

“The whole point of the South African action was to demand provisional measures on to the Genocide Convention to stop the genocide that’s happening now.

“We needed the international community to take measures to stop Israel’s slaughter before the already horrific situation in Gaza gets even worse.”