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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

The flowers and rainbows of the ICJ

BY Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash Jul 3, 2024

The International Court of Justice recently ruled that Israel’s military operations in Gaza, particularly concerning the blockade and military incursions, constitute violations of international humanitarian law and the human rights of the Palestinian population. The ICJ’s ruling comes too late, one could say, for the hundreds of thousands of Israel’s victims in Gaza.

One of the key aspects of the ICJ’s decision is its recognition of the Gaza blockade as disproportionate and in violation of the principles of necessity and proportionality in self-defence. The court emphasized that while Israel has legitimate security concerns, the measures it has taken in Gaza exceed what is necessary to address those concerns and have resulted in significant harm to the civilian population. 

In other words, Israel’s claim to self-defence does not give it the right to enclose more than 2 million people in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison.

Furthermore, the ICJ condemned Israel’s brutal military attacks on Gaza’s civilians and civilian infrastructure. The court reiterated that under international law, parties to a conflict “must distinguish between military targets and civilians, and they must take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.” 

Israel’s actions in Gaza, according to the ICJ, have failed to meet these standards. You cannot get away with bombing and shooting civilians trying to reach humanitarian aid trucks and shelters forever.

If Israel does not respect the ICJ’s decision and continues its operations in Gaza in violation of international law, what are the consequences? Israel may face further condemnation and isolation in the international community by becoming a rogue state. The ICJ’s decision carries significant weight in the realm of international law, especially for its leadership figures now subject to arrest warrants like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Additionally, continued violations of human rights might lead other states, international organizations, or even individual victims of Israel’s actions in Gaza to pursue legal avenues to hold Israel accountable. This could include actions in national courts, as well as further proceedings before international tribunals. 

Israel’s attitude following the ICJ’s ruling undermines efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Respect for international law and the decisions of international institutions is crucial for fostering stability and promoting justice in the region. However, experts and allies of the Palestinian people are clear – the resolution of the conflict lies in the end of Israeli occupation in Palestine.

There are several damning lessons to learn from all this. International law and other legal mechanisms take time to have tangible effects and are still not as efficient as they should. Indeed, the United States does not recognize its jurisdiction. And colonial powers continue to commit genocide with effective impunity in front of the world’s eyes.

but what happens to the accomplices of genocidal states? The ICJ’s ruling remains vague on the contributions of countries like Canada and the United States to the war crimes being committed in Gaza. 

To me, it’s all very morbid. If heinous human rights violations happen again to our people, no one is coming.

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Maïtée Labrecque-Saganash is Cree from Waswanipi, and is the Nation’s newest columnist. She is an activist and writer who also has a regular column in Montreal’s French Metro Newspaper.