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Friday, March 1, 2024
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 2 2024 (IPS) - South Africa’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Mathu Joyini, said the country would take further legal action should Israel ignore the provisional measures set out by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
She was speaking at the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People this week. The meeting saw the adoption of its agenda for 2024, for which the Committee will engage with member states and regional groups to support the realization of the rights and dignities of the Palestinian people. This has become all the more relevant in the face of the current humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The ICJ ruled that Israel should take all measures within its power to prevent a genocide in the Gaza Strip. It stopped short of ordering a ceasefire. According to the Hamas Health Ministry, 7,000 people have been killed and 66,000 wounded in Gaza since Israel started it’s military offensive in reaction to the October 7, 2023, attack.
The Permanent Representative of Senegal, Cheikh Niang, who was re-elected to his position as Committee Chair, lamented that the current war between Israel and Hamas spoke to a “collective failure” to realize the rights of the Palestinian people and expressed hope that the Security Council “will hear the many voices” that are calling for a ceasefire.
“It is time to begin to heal the wounds that have been reopened in so many places,” he said as he advocated for a two-state solution, wherein Israel and Palestine would co-exist in peace and security within recognized borders based on the pre-1967 border lines.
Secretary-General António Guterres convened the meeting and delivered the opening statement, beginning with reiterating his condemnation of Hamas and other extremist groups and calling for the safe release of the Israeli hostages while also condemning the ensuing violence that has afflicted the people of Gaza.
“There is no justification for the intentional killing, injuring, torture, or kidnapping of civilians, using sexual violence against them, or launching rockets towards civilian targets,” he said. “At the same time, nothing can justify the collective punishment of the people in Gaza.”
He reiterated his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, warning that the “humanitarian system in Gaza [was] collapsing. The current hostilities have lasted over 120 days, and the casualties and devastation on the Gaza Strip and West Bank stand as a “scar on our shared humanity and conscience.”
Guterres also noted that the recent hostilities in the Red Sea, Iraq, and Syria signal the impact the ongoing violence has on the region and that this could trigger “broader escalation, risking regional stability.”
Gréta Gunnarsdóttir, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York, appealed to the Committee and to donor states that had made the decision to suspend their funding of UNRWA.
“Every day, our staff is making a direct impact on the ground for the people of Palestine,” she said.
She added that other humanitarian organizations, including its UN partners, depend on UNRWA to deliver humanitarian aid. As the largest humanitarian agency in the region, it has been made particularly vulnerable. UNRWA facilities, notably schools, shelters, and health care centers, have not been spared from bombardments. Disease outbreaks and the risk of famine in the region are as likely to be the cause of deaths for civilians as gunfire and bombardments.
Gunnarsdottir warned that if UNRWA were to collapse, then all humanitarian operations in Palestine would collapse.
Recently, the agency has faced allegations that some of its staff were actively involved in Hamas attacks on October 7. As a result, at least 17 major donor countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, and the European Union, have suspended donations.
The dossier Israeli intelligence shared with the United States, which details the allegations, had not been presented to UNRWA, according to Gunnarsdottir.
She told the Committee that UNRWA’s Commissioner General has terminated the contracts of eight out of the twelve staff members accused; two were confirmed dead, one has not been identified, and one does not match with the staff lists.
Joyini accused Israel of continuing “to behave in a manner that is contrary to the court order” and said that if Israel did not comply with the court’s order, then South Africa would be willing to take legal measures to enforce that ruling.
Joyini asked the Committee to extend public support to South Africa’s case to strengthen it further in the ICJ through Article 63 of the ICJ’s Statute of the Court of Justice, which would allow member states to request permission from the court to intervene if the state holds an interest that may be affected by the decision of the court case.
Riyad H. Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, noted that Israeli leaders and the military should “face justice… and accountability in every place possible, including the international legal system.” When speaking of the situation in Gaza, he remarked that the crimes were “beyond description,” adding that it was the international community’s “collective duty” to prevent any further trauma.
Mansour called for Palestine to become a full-fledged member of the United Nations, aligning with the demand for a two-state solution that the Committee and the Secretary-General have made. He proposed that an international peace conference should be convened, which would put the status of Palestine at the forefront. A draft resolution will be brought forward to the General Assembly with support from Nigeria.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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