ICJ Ruling on German Complicity in Genocide for Weapons Sales to Israel

On April 30, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) voted 15-1 to reject Nicaragua’s case calling for a provisional order to be issued for Germany to stop arming Israel, and to renew funding for UNRWA (which the government actually did at the end of April). However, the court rejected Germany’s application to throw the case out, and will continue the investigation.

Nicaragua had argued that Germany “must immediately suspend its aid to Israel, in particular its military assistance, export and authorization of export of military equipment and war weapons, in so far as this aid is used or could be used to commit or to facilitate serious violations of the Genocide Convention, international humanitarian law or other peremptory norms of general international law.”

In its counterargument, Germany contended that it has respected all norms of international law and the Genocide Convention, and claimed that most of the military equipment transferred to Israel was operational or defensive in nature, including 3,000 anti-tank weapons. That claim was refuted by the only dissenting voice on the panel, former Jordanian Prime Minister Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh. In his written opinion, he identifies various pieces of equipment transferred to Israel that are commonly used to attack civilians, in particular the anti-tank weapons, “especially when employed against an enemy which does not have tanks, as is the case in Gaza”.

ICJ President Nawaf Salam, in explaining the court’s decision, pointed out that the complaint was still being investigated, and reminded all states of “their international obligations relating to the transfer of arms to parties to an armed conflict, in order to avoid the risk that such arms might be used in violation of international law”. In respect to that reminder, the Nicaraguan government said it was “pleased with the outcome of its campaign”, recalling that the ICJ had already pointed out the risk of genocide in Gaza in its previous decision in the case brought by South Africa (cf. SAS 5, 9, 12/24).

However the investigation turns out, Nicaragua’s case at the ICJ has undoubtedly had a useful political impact already, making it more problematic for Germany and all other countries selling weapons and funding war to continue to do so unchallenged.

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