MIDDLE EAST CRISIS
Ramaphosa asks International Criminal Court to probe war crimes charges against Israel
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.
“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.
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