Australia must support a genocide case against Israel at the UN’s highest court to protect Palestinians, a justice expert says.
In a letter to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus on Tuesday, the Australian Centre for International Justice (ACIJ) urged the government to publicly support South Africa’s application to the court.
The centre’s principal lawyer and executive director Rawan Arraf says the measures requested by South Africa align with the Australian government’s position, so the nation must do more.
At the end of December, South Africa asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an urgent order declaring Tel Aviv in breach of its obligations under the 1948 Genocide Convention due to its offensive in Gaza.
In the lead-up to the public hearings – which will be held at the Hague on Thursday and Friday – Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan and Bolivia issued public statements in support of South Africa’s application.
Israel’s foreign ministry responded by blaming Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians and claimed the designated terrorist group was using them as human shields.
“As a State Party to the Genocide Convention, Australia has a duty to prevent and punish the crime of genocide wherever it occurs,” the letter from the ACIJ reads.
“If Australia is serious about bringing a sustainable end to the violence, it should offer its full support to South Africa’s application to the ICJ.”
An online campaign calling on the government to support South Africa’s case against Israel has garnered almost 22,000 signatures.
The nationwide call to action was set up by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN), who are demanding Australia “begins to be morally and legally consistent in its support for international law”.
APAN President Nasser Mashni said the legal bid was the most promising and immediate chance the international community had to end violence in the territory.
“Our government committed itself to upholding the Genocide Convention in regards to Ukraine, and the community now expects this commitment to extend to Palestinians in Gaza,” he said.
As the conflict stretches into its fourth month, Israel’s bombardment, blockade and ground invasion of Gaza has killed more than 23,000 people, according to the local health ministry and the UN.
Israel’s response follows the October 7 attack in which Hamas militants killed more than 1200 Israelis and took 240 hostages, according to Tel Aviv officials.
The ICJ application details conditions in Gaza and provides evidence of “genocidal intent” expressed by Israel’s top politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the letter claims.
Australia has previously supported other ICJ actions and made calls for a ceasefire.
In September, it joined 31 other nations to deliver an intervention before the international court in support of Ukraine’s case against Russia, calling the latter’s invasion “illegal and immoral”.
Australia also voted in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire at the UN General Assembly in December.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese released a joint statement with his Canadian and New Zealand counterparts on the same day calling for a “sustainable” ceasefire.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was aware of the proceedings but it was not appropriate to comment on matters before the court.