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Nicaragua says Germany complicit in genocide for weapons exports to Israel

Managua's complaint marks the second case brought at the International Court of Justice stemming from the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip. 

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — Germany is failing to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinian people by continuing to supply Israel with arms, lawyers for Nicaragua argued at the U.N.’s highest court on Monday. 

In a case filed last month, Managua is asking the International Court of Justice to issue emergency measures ordering Berlin to suspend military aid to Israel and restart funding of the United Nations relief agency. 

“From the first days of the Israeli military actions in Gaza, it became evident that grave violations of international humanitarian law were being committed,” Nicaragua's ambassador to the Netherlands, Carlos José Argüello Gómez, said. 

Nicaragua has asked the 16-judge panel to issue five so-called provisional measures — essentially an injunction — while the court considers the underlying case on the merits. 

Germany is Israel’s second-largest source of military aid, after the United States. Since the start of the conflict, Berlin has signed off on 300 million euros ($324 million) in weapons and equipment exports, according to pleadings by Nicaragua. 

During two hours of hearings at the Hague-based court, lawyers for Nicaragua argued that all countries are bound by international humanitarian law, even if they aren’t directly participating in a conflict. 

“States must not abet the situation by aiding or assisting the perpetrator, but they must use their best efforts to ensure respect for these fundamental norms and preventive breaches with respect to these obligations,” Argüello Gómez said in his opening remarks. 

Unlike the case filed against Israel by South Africa, Nicaragua’s complaint goes beyond the 1948 Genocide Convention. It includes charges that Israel has violated the 1949 Geneva Conventions — which govern humanitarian behavior during war — as well as international humanitarian law more broadly. 

Israel has repeatedly denied that it is violating the rules of war or committing genocide in Gaza. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza in military operations following the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, which left more than 1,000 dead. 

Nicaragua focused on showing that Germany is aware of how dire the situation in Gaza has become and how much support the country is sending to Israel. Last month, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock described the situation for the 2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as “hell” following a visit to the region. 

The complaint also argues that Germany’s defunding of the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA violates international humanitarian law. In January, the day after the court issued emergency measures against Israel over a risk of breaches of the Genocide Convention, the country released a report that 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff members in Gaza took part in the Oct. 7 attacks. In response, Germany and several other countries froze funding for the organization. 

“It’s a real stretch that the court will tell a state that they have to spend their money on a certain thing,” international law expert Juliette McIntyre told Courthouse News. The judges have a lot of leeway for provisional measures and could even substitute their own. 

Germany unequivocally denied it had violated any international law.

“Nicaragua’s presentation was grossly biased,” Tania von Uslar-Gleichen, legal adviser for Germany, told reporters after the hearing. Germany will present its arguments on Tuesday. 

Nicaragua has begun the process of bringing a similar complaint against the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands. The United States has a carveout for jurisdiction for the court. 

Hearings will continue on Tuesday. 

Follow @mollyquell
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