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Ramaphosa asks International Criminal Court to probe war crimes charges against Israel

Ramaphosa asks International Criminal Court to probe war crimes charges against Israel
President Cyril Ramaphosa with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani during a state visit in Doha, Qatar on 14 November 2023. (Photo: Kopano Tlape / GCIS)

During his state visit in Doha, Qatar, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa had taken steps towards laying a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court against the Israeli government.

President Cyril Ramaphosa believes that war crimes are being committed by Israel in the war between that country and Hamas which warrant an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

During a press briefing on Wednesday, Ramaphosa revealed that the country had made a referral to the ICC while calling for a ceasefire and once again echoing the two-state model as a solution.

“We stated our position as South Africa very clearly that we are opposed to the operations that are ongoing, particularly they are now targeting hospitals where babies, women and the injured are dying like flies,” said Ramaphosa, who was speaking in Doha while on a state visit to Qatar.

ramaphosa qatar israel

President Cyril Ramaphosa arrives at the Hammad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, for his state visit. (Photo: Kopano Tlape/GCIS)

“As South Africa, we have accordingly, as many countries in the world see fit, [referred] this whole Israeli government action to the International Criminal Court. We have put in a referral because we believe that war crimes are being committed there and of course, we do not condone the actions which have been taken by Hamas. Similarly, we condemn actions which are under way and we think they warrant an investigation by the ICC,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Pandor calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza and an end to Israel’s ‘collective punishment on all Palestinians’

Ramaphosa said he discussed the ongoing conflict with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

“We both abhorred what is happening now in Gaza, which has turned into a concentration camp and genocide is taking place,” Ramaphosa said.

“We were able to exchange views in the geopolitical space, particularly in relation to the crisis which is unfolding in Gaza and in Palestine and we thanked and applauded his royal highness for the interventions his royal highness is taking to mediate in this crisis, particularly in relation to releasing the hostages but also in advocating a position that was we as South Africa believe that the crisis between Israel and Palestine needs to be resolved through a two-state solution where Palestine emerges as a fully fledged state, as well as the existence of the Israeli state,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

Ramaphosa said South Africa would be looking at ways to assist Palestinians who were caught in the crossfire.

“South Africa will be soon sending forward things like medicine and related products and that will also be extended to the West Bank and it will go beyond just politics. We will be collaborating with Egypt, who we have a very good relationship with, as well as NGOs,” he said.

ICC processes

Now that South Africa has made a referral, it is up to the ICC to determine whether there is a case to investigate. The ICC prosecutes crimes against humanity which include serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population. The committee also prosecutes genocide, war crimes which are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and crimes of aggression.

The Office of the ICC Prosecutor must determine whether there is sufficient evidence of crimes of sufficient gravity falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction, whether there are genuine national proceedings, and whether opening an investigation would serve the interests of justice and of the victims.

After gathering evidence and identifying a suspect, the prosecution requests ICC judges to issue an arrest warrant for those involved or a summons to appear before the ICC on a voluntary basis.

On Wednesday, Ramaphosa said Israel often avoided accountability in international forums.

They’ve become a law unto themselves internationally and this is totally unacceptable,” he said.

Following Hamas’s attacks in Israel on 7 October, which led to more than 1,200 mostly civilian deaths, with about 240 hostages taken, Israel launched an aerial assault on Gaza before sending in troops.

According to figures collected by the Hamas-run health department, by Wednesday at least 11,240 people in Gaza had been killed, which included 4,630 children and 3,130 women. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    Thousands of citizens (including tourists) are being murdered in S.A. every month, year after year, and little is being done about it. Is this not another war crime . . . on our doorstep? So what does Ramaphosa have to say about that?

  • Mohsin Wadee says:

    Israel is committing genocide, and this is the right thing to do. And before anyone mentions Russia – well it waged war against another country, not its own people.

    Netanhayu et al are violent fascists. And this is absolutely arguable.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Be honest with yourself and everyone. There is blood on both sides.

    • g k says:

      Killing citizens from another country is still a war crime, your logic doesnt make any sense. Neither does South Africa using ICC courts, the ANC have tried to leave multiple times.

      • Graeme de Villiers says:

        This is the point of hypocrisy that needs the most scrutiny. Not long ago, South Africa was appalled by the ICC and wanted to leave. Now, suddenly, the ICC is a reputable, credible organisation that must heed the call of the mighty ANC and SA government. Having his bread buttered on both sides must be Cyril’s favourite breakfast snack.

      • Ben Harper says:

        Not necessarily, depends on the conditions. What Israel is doing is justified under the Geneva Convention and cannot be classified as war crimes. Oh and it is most certainly NOT genocide

        • Enver Klein says:

          @Ben, you definitely qualify to be a standup comic, please give up your day job

        • Vusi Dladla says:

          Therefore there is no need to panic. ICC or any court for that matter will not find against Israel since all her actions are justified. If this is the case, why the noise?

          • Boaz Keren Gil says:

            The ICC indeed won’t find anything, and oh boy, they tried for the past 75 years. Nothing new will come out of it. The noise is about the hypocrisy of the ANC. Not long ago, they wanted to leave the ICC because it issued a warrant against their best friend, child abductor, and mass murderer; Putin. Now, suddenly, they want to use the ICC? Can’t you see it is all a show and a big joke by the ANC to divert the fire from its domestic failures and to win some votes?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      I also find it wryly amusing that even spell check agrees your comment is eminently arguable. (the dark forces of the evil West at work again? )

    • Peter Holmes says:

      Check out the definition of genocide before you bandy it about loosely. Israel does not list genocideas one of its stated aims. Hamas does.

    • John Smythe says:

      It’s extremely sad that so many people have to suffer through this terrible conflict. But, genocide? Where? Israel declared war on Hamas. In war, civilians get hurt and die. And Hamas knows that. By poking the giant they didn’t think the Israeli response would be a few missiles into Gaza. They WANT war. They did it knowing, full well, the consequences of their actions. They don’t care about their own people and it’s evident in the way they use humans as meat shields. They’re the genocidal maniacs who should be investigated.

  • Mark Parker says:

    Surely if the ANC Govt is wanting to act fair in their self-proclaimed role as “potential mediators” they will be referring a case against the leaders of Hamas who are in breach of the Geneva Convention with regards Human Shields (GCIV Arts. 28, 49; API Art. 51.7; APII Art. 5.2.c)? I also hope that Ramaphosa voiced his displeasure at Qatar for housing, funding, and providing financial service provision to Hamas and their leaders. Further, I did not notice the ANC launching a referral to the ICC for Bashar al-Assad for the use of chemical weapons where 580,000 Syrians (360,000 civilians) were killed. Not to mention the ANC refusal to fulfil an ICC arrest warrant for Omar Al-Bashir for crimes against humanity and attempted genocide in Darfur (200,000+ deaths). Call me a cynic but I’m not sure Ramaphosa and the ANC understand the concept of “mediation and mediators” and considering they believe the ICC and Rome Statute to be a “Western” construct to go after Africans and Arabs, …why bother with the virtue signalling charade?

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      The ICC are the ANC’s weekend special. Hot and heavy for use against Israel, but maybe we gonna break up if it’s Omar Al-Bashir or Vladimir Putin.

    • John Smythe says:

      And so many people take to the streets over the tragedy in Palestine. River to the sea and all that. But these protestors are nowhere to be found while people are being killed in the tens of thousands in Yemen (labelled as a humanitarian disaster), Syria, Sudan, Nigeria, the murders by ISIS. Where are those protestors? They’re only on the protest bus for the ride. It’s easy to pick on Israel. It’s more difficult to pick on governments who don’t give a toss about their own people at all and care even less about a bunch of flag-carrying protestors.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    All the war crimes talk by our esteemed president leaves me struggling with this philosophical question:

    Which is worse:
    1. To cause death by bombing; or
    2 To cause death by poisoned water, poor medical care, allowing starvation, allowing murder, allowing burning buildings, allowing shebeen gassing, failing to provide anti venom, selling guns, stealing critical funds.

    I ask because in South Africa our government has option 2 pretty much sown up and so find myself bemused that we have the nerve to assume the high ground against any nation.

    • William Kelly says:

      You stole my thunder sir! Spot on! Spot on!!

    • Sydney Kaye says:

      Yes a photo purported to be of a Gaza hospital in a dismal state looked remarkably like any ANC run one here. No water, no electricity, dirty bed linens, patients on the floor, medicines stolen by the authorities, and bring you own food. The only difference being that in Gaza the scanning machines are maintained and still work.

    • Kathleen Olivier says:

      You have nailed it, people are suffering daily from all the above mentioned. He has the nerve to promise medical assistance and aid whilst our hospitals are in a state of disrepair. Such double standards.

  • Martin Botha says:

    We are still waiting for CR to condemn the atrocities committed by Russia(friend Putin) in Ukraine

    • Denise Smit says:

      And what about Hamas slaughter of 1400 people in Israel on one day in a few hours only in what can only be described as barbaric terrorism. Beheading of babies, burning of families alive, execution of young people, raping of woman, bombing of people in their shelters with handgrenades, and, and , and ………. No outcry from Ramaphosa about that. And we continue to house them in OUR country!!!!

      • Enver Klein says:

        @Denise, you are still standing on the same narrative. Please educate yourself by researching other material by various journalists, Max Blumenthal, Aaron Mate, Alex Rubenstein, et al. And also, take some time to listen to Norman Finkelstein, Dr MADS Gilbert and Daniella Weiss.
        I have provided the sources of my posts; I would really appreciate it if you would do the same because I am really curious to know where you and Ben Harper source your information from.

  • Bob Kuhn says:

    War is helll, particularly for the side that started it!

    • Paul T says:

      No doubt the ANC are hypocrites, but I am generally very disturbed by the rampant whataboutism and defence of Israel in these comments in the face of a totally overboard genocidal reaction to the Hamas attacks. I can imagine how Americans could be totally out of touch in their unwavering support of Israel, but you would think that South Africans would have learned our own lessons about the evils (and consequences) of the total subjugation of a group of people by others but it appears not.

      • Ben Harper says:


      • Sydney Kaye says:

        Do you think that that the word “genocidal” has to be attached to “attack” automatically when it refers to Israel,busy with digging out the entity that seeks to eliminate it. ,Do you think you are conditioned by the repetition of a stock propoganda phrase.

      • John Smythe says:

        Hamas is the governing party in Palestine. They attacked Israel. Israel declared war. People get hurt and die in wars. It’s an unfortunate fact. So, no genocide. It’s war.

  • Gary De Sousa says:

    I apologise to Israel for the actions of this regime.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    If Israel didn’t care about Palestinian civilinian deaths, it would have completed this job by air and drone without sacrificing a single soldier and ended this whole thing on October 8.

  • Hybie De Jager says:

    Can somebody give this man a mirror ? Solve the evils at home before advising other countries.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    With playing “world police man” Ramaphosa tries to divert attention from his own incompetence sorting out SA’s massive challenges. He really is the Dreamer in Chief.

    • Vusi Dladla says:

      I suspect the likes of CR and other Africans were misled into believing that when there is a problem that affects humanity anywhere, we need to help each other. Think about 9/11, the holocaust,etc. Now are you saying that is none of their business because these things did not happen in their countries?

  • Sasha Sanders says:

    But definitely no war crimes have been committed by Russia in Ukraine, right Mr Ramaphosa?

    • Ken Shai says:

      Of course not, in Ukraine Russia did everything it could to avoid civilian casualties, and treated Ukrainians as pretty much the same people as Russians, the only difference Ukrainians were brainwashed by US propaganda for 30 years. But because US controls ICC then those who are against the Biden regime is likely to be portrayed as war criminal, whereas anyone who is an ally of Biden regime will be exempt from war crimes charges no matter how overwhelming is the evidence.

  • Ken Shai says:

    It will be very interesting to see if ICC will do anything. I am quite convince that despite all heads of state, our President Ramaphosa, President Erdogan of Turkey ICC will not do anything. Simply because it is highly politicized , and it can only act against heads of state that against US hegemony, and never against US allies. ICC to my opinion is a propaganda and public relations operation of US and EU. But whether I am right or wrong depends on whether ICC will issue an arrest warrant against Netaniyahu, who is doing all those things to remain in power despite 76% unpopularity rating and despite corruption investigation.

  • Fuad XXX says:

    What everyone seems to forget is the 7th of October was not created in a vacuum. It is the culmination of at least 75 years of incredible evil dehumanizing the Palestinians purely to steal their country

    • Ben Harper says:


    • John Smythe says:


    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Nice name Fuad XXX! Where can we find the movies?

      What some others are perhaps forgetting is that “history” began more than 75 years ago.

      Vacuum popquiz: If Fuad’s place of worship (which is, say, 1000 years old) is built on top of Mordechai’s place of worship (which is, say, 3000 years old) for all to plainly see – who would be the occupier and who and stole who’s land from whom?

  • mike van wyk says:

    Unfortunately it seems that SA is hell bent on hardening diplomatic relations with Isreal and its allies – specifically the US, which remains steadfast in its support for Isreal. Hamas, which (was) the formally ‘elected’ government within Gaza has been recognised and proclaimed a terrorist political organisation by most first world states. The Palestinians have been offered many solutions towards creation of formal statehood (Palestine); all of which were rejected by each of the Palestinian representatives. Palestinians have instead chosen violence since 1948. The level of violence Palestinian militia (Hamas, Hezbollah and others) has escalated. For decades Israel has been forced to launch counter offences which under international law is Israel’s right to self-defence. The barbaric attack by Hamas on the 7 October has resulted in the IDF taking steps to protect its citizens and end Hama’s reign of terror launched from Gaza. Gaza has been unoccupied by Israel since 2005 during which the Palestinian Authority (relatively moderate) was forcefully displaced by Hamas who have been in full control of Gaza ever since. The citizens of Gaza under Hamas have suffered economically – as Israel has the fullest right under international law not to engage Gaza economically as its labelled a terrorist state due to Hamas’s actions. Although the West Bank under the PA has had a better relationship with Israel, violence has been the underlying factor resulting in the cordoning off of Palestinians from Israel. At the heart of this political friction is the Palestinian refusal to agree to any solution or to the existence of Israel.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    What an absolute buffoon this man is and what a disgrace for SA! What about the slaughter by Hamas, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe etc??? This spineless and useless jellyfish is so blind, hypocritical and frankly, so stupid. He suffers from delusion, as if he is a modern day Kissinger, strutting around the world and pontificating. He has zero gravitas, credibility and respect, and is nothing but a huge embarrassment to this country. Stay home Cyril, you accomplish ZERO besides making an idiot of yourself, and try and sort out the self-imposed destruction and wasteland that you and your vile party/government have foisted on SA. Even better, disappear!!

  • Henri Pfister says:

    And Putin with the Ukrainian invasion/atrocities too?? The silence is deafening Cyril

  • Douglas Shrimpton says:

    ramaposa does NOT speak for the majority of normal, hard working, law abiding people of ALL colours in South Africa. Do NOT forget who supports the terrorist organisation. malema is one of them!

  • Art Gee says:

    Two Faced Rama-ssiah!!!
    Yet the murder of civilians in the Ukraine is acceptable???
    Ukraine did not even start the war!!!
    Get your priorities right, numbnut, and sort out the 52 murders PER DAY, in your own country!!!
    What about the RAPE in SA???
    Better you go sit on your farm and leave somebody else to actually REPAIR SA!!!

  • Enver Klein says:

    For those who criticized DM for allowing “fantastical” posts, interestingly enough, there has been no comments about Zapiro of 14/11/2023.

  • Heinrich Lesch says:

    So he suffers from double Standards. Did he once ask the ICC to Investigate Putin and Assad? He is OK with Putin murdering innocent civilians in Ukraine because he is Putin’s little lapdog. Assad and Putin’s Army killed 500,000 Syrians, but Typical and expected from a DELINQUENT PRESIDENT. The ANC has the same type of thinking as they only follow the rules that suit them. Why not fix your own country, which probably has the highest MURDER rate per capita in the world? Not to mention the CORRUPT ANC ELITE and all the corrupt Municipalities in charge by the ANC cadres.

  • Richard G says:

    Our President and Government are a joke. Pity it’s not funny! It’s very sad and embarrassing to admit to being a South African at the current time. I was once a proud and patriotic SA citizen and served my country for 40 years, several as a Diplomat in Europe. I certainly couldn’t do so now.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    “As South Africa…..” It should rather be “As ANC”.

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    Self important muppet with delusions of competence and standing.

  • Neville Berkowitz says:

    If there wasn’t a General Election in 6 months’ time, I don’t think that the ANC and EFF would be so virulent about the Gaza issue. The EFF is saying the ANC is not doing enough about Israel and that the DA is supporting Israel and anyone voting for them are voting for Israel.
    The ANC meeting with the Iranian President and other countries supporting Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS and other Islamic Fundamentalist warring groups have turned a blind eye to these terrorist groups murdering well over 100 000 Christians in Africa, so far.
    A simple Google search on ISIS in Africa murdering African Christians and burning churches and villages will show the facts from sources such as Vatican News and other research-based institutions monitoring these massacres.
    ISIS is now in control of a port in Northern Mozambique and can bring in supplies at will. That’s not too far from South Africa and with the backing of Iran and other such nations the African Christians in Southern Africa should be more concerned about their own welfare.
    The roles of the ANC and EFF embracing the Sponsors of these terrorist groups are inviting the fox into the hen house.
    Calling Israel an apartheid state is an obvious vote catcher for all those who suffered under Apartheid as well as attracting the vote from over half a million Muslims in South Africa.
    I am not discussing the merits of Gaza, but the roles of the ANC and EFF support of Hamas in Gaza with the General Election in 2024 as their main objective.

    • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

      Interesting thought Neville. Not sure I agree. Actually, I believe that this issue is all about populism and votes for the ANC and the EFF, as well as party funding probably coming from Iran. “Apartheid” has been appropriated here, the ANC hasn’t had a new hook for a while, and everyone knows the soft underbelly is to blame the you-know-who’s as a scapegoat for all their problems. This may be just the tonic that the ANC think that they have ordered. Of course, the only problem is that the pages of history are littered with the ashes of antisemites.

  • Naz E says:

    Food for thought, why does every single ethnic struggle for freedom or equality depend on how white people feelings are affected by said struggle.

    Free Palestine, always and forever

  • Shaun Slayer says:

    3480 men killed, is the part this propaganda machine got wrong. Why report on woman and children and leave out the men and how many pets have been killed. No-one ever says how many dogs and cats were killed, or are they irrelevant? Stand back and take a look at how the media is filling our heads with the wrong info. foxnews/video/6340530411112

  • Glyn M says:

    Maybe Cyril ought to think of his own crimes against the citizens in his own country. More murders than the number of people killed in the war in Croatia, overwhelming poverty and starvation, lack of housing and decent education for the poor, dismal healthcare, billions stolen by those who have been trusted and enabled to govern the country, lack of accountability, spoilt overprivileged, over-protected, often uneducated, inexperienced, useless Ministers who are unaware of the fearful lives ordinary citizens lead in the hellhole this country has become, ministerial jobs for pals and family, nothing being done about any of the above, the despair as Ramaphosa supports all the failed, crooked, abusive governments in the world, giving the middle finger to the Western countries who imposed sanctions against SA for years, in their mislead belief that the ANC would be a better option for the South Africans. Kyk hoe lyk ons nou!

  • Paul G says:

    These communists want to distance themselves from democratic countries like Israel and foolish South Africans allow this madman to rule. They will kill themselves and die of starvation because of these communists.

  • Boaz Keren Gil says:

    Let’s start with not meeting Putin, a fugitive with an ICC warrant against him. Then, the president can talk about going to the ICC against Israel. It is all a show to get some votes and divert anger from the ANC, nothing more. If it was about moral, they wouldn’t welcome Russia and Iran as they do today.

    P.S. The ICC investigation will fail, as previous one have. Israel, even if it is hard to hear or believe, is abiding to international law (namely Article 13, 51 and 57 of the Geneva convention). Israel is a democracy and has an independent court, which will judge any rouge soldier. This means that de facto the ICC will seek minimum involvement, as per their own rules. This is why there was never an ICC warrant against any Israeli president since the occupation started.

  • Citizen X says:

    I am glad to see people are sharing comments freely. Let’s not forget our freedom do so without reprisal like many who have suffered a silent war on freedom of speech by the powers that be. I am sure you all have your jobs, livelihoods etc.and yes freedoms. Use it with respect and gratitude no matter what your opinion…or side you take. There are many losing their lives and livelihoods because they actually do not have such rights.

  • Mr Prseident.
    When Russia invaded Ukraine, a sovereign international recognised country, you supported them and defended Putin. What about the crimes Putin committed?

    You even entertained and swept the visit of the Lady R to one of the most significant naval bases under the carpet.

    Yet you have the audacity to charge Israel at the International Court!

    Please follow the new on the Israel / Hamas events. Israel was not the instigator nor the aggressor, they WERE attacked by Hamas.

    Israel defended her land and her people!

    As for some Ministers they obviously do not know what they are talking about when addressing the media and making false and unfounded allegations.

    Please look at our own country and the many senseless murders, assaults robberies committed here daily. Sort out the loadshedding problems before you point fingers at other countries.

    Do not point a finger another nation when 3 fingers are pointing back tou you.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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