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Politics

Why Iran Won’t Participate in Genocide Case Against Israel?

January 12, 2024
Faramarz Davar
2 min read
Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 11 opened two days of legal arguments in a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in its war with Palestinian terrorist group Hamas
Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 11 opened two days of legal arguments in a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in its war with Palestinian terrorist group Hamas
Addressing the ICJ judges in The Hague, South Africa pleaded for an interim order for an immediate halt to Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip
Addressing the ICJ judges in The Hague, South Africa pleaded for an interim order for an immediate halt to Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip

Judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on January 11 opened two days of legal arguments in a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide in its war with Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. 

Addressing the ICJ judges in The Hague, South Africa pleaded for an interim order for an immediate halt to Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The 84-page filing by South Africa claims Israel violated the Genocide Convention that was drawn up in 1948 in the aftermath of World War II and the killing of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. 

Both Israel and South Africa are signatories of the convention, which gives the ICJ, the highest UN legal body, jurisdiction to rule on disputes over the treaty.

The text defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

A number of countries around the world, advocacy groups and civil society organizations have welcomed South Africa’s ICJ case against Israel.

Despite its historic anti-Israel stance, the Islamic Republic of Iran has firmly stated its refusal to participate in the court proceedings in the Hague.

As a party to the the Genocide Convention, however, Iran is obliged to not commit genocide and also to prevent and punish it. 

It is common practice for countries to present written or oral statements about a case filed at the ICJ, but the Iranian government has chosen not to engage in these customary practices, citing its "non-recognition" of Israel as the primary reason.

However, this argument is legally unsound.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the interim government of Iran formally withdrew the de facto recognition of Israel by the previous government.

The Islamic Republic is concerned that participating in matters related to Israel might imply implicit recognition of its existence. 

However, participation in ICJ proceedings or international organizations such as the United Nations does not imply implicit recognition.

Iran's government has engaged in direct legal disputes with Israel in recent years.

And in 2016, a Swiss court ordered Israel to pay $1.1 billion plus interest to Iran in a decades old dispute over the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline predating the 1979 revolution.

The Iranian government's non-participation in the complaint against Israel at the ICJ regarding its alleged violation of the Genocide Convention extends beyond this specific case. 

When the UN General Assembly sought the Hague court's advisory opinion on the legality of the barrier wall between Israel and Palestinian territories, the Islamic Republic declined to provide particpate.

That’s because the UN General Assembly referred to the post-1967 war occupied territories, while Iran considers that all lands transferred to the British government after World War I, before the establishment of the United Nations, as occupied territory.

In 2004, the UN court ruled that Israel's West Bank barrier is illegal and construction of it should be stopped immediately.

The Islamic Republic refrained from voting on the text at the General Assembly, expressing concerns that such engagement would have created ambiguity regarding its definition of “occupied territories” in Palestine.

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