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Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

UN top court opts against blocking German military aid to Israel

In a closely watched case, the International Court of Justice decided to let Germany continue sending weapons to Israel in its fight against Hamas.

(CN) — The top court of the United Nations on Tuesday decided to let Germany continue shipping weapons to Israel, though it will carry on considering whether those shipments are enabling acts of genocide.

The International Court of Justice ruled against imposing emergency measures to stop or limit Germany from providing weapons and other assistance to Israel in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza. The panel of judges voted 16-1 in favor of the ruling.

The case against Germany was brought in March by Nicaragua, which accuses Germany of enabling acts of genocide by supplying Israel with weapons.

But the ICJ said “the circumstances, as they now present themselves to the court, are not such as to require” blocking the arms shipments.

Nicaragua's charges are linked to a separate case before the U.N. court brought by South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocide in its invasion of Gaza. In late January, the ICJ ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent civilian deaths after finding there was a risk of genocide against the Palestinian people.

Nicaragua said Germany's actions breached the 1948 Genocide Convention by allowing violations of international humanitarian law in the Palestinian territory. The ICJ will continue examining the charges against Germany, a process that could take years.

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 at least 300 million euros ($324 million) in weapons and equipment exports, according to pleadings by Nicaragua.

ICJ judges noted that the volume of German military exports to Israel had fallen considerably since last November.

Since Israel began its invasion of Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, at least 34,535 people have been killed, including more than 14,500 children and 8,400 women, according to authorities in Gaza. Also, more than 77,700 people have been wounded and more than 8,000 are missing.

The war also has displaced about 80% of Gaza's population, with hundreds of thousands feared to be on the brink of famine.

Israel has repeatedly denied that it is violating the rules of war or committing genocide in Gaza.

Germany's Foreign Ministry welcomed Tuesday's ruling.

“Germany is not a party to the conflict in the Middle East — quite the contrary,” the ministry said in a statement. “We are working day and night towards a two-state solution. We are the biggest donors of humanitarian aid for Palestinians.”

But it added that the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas showed that Israel “must defend itself.” More than 1,000 people were killed in the attack.

In the past two decades, Germany has made supporting Israel a core policy, arguing that its responsibility for the Holocaust meant that Israel's security was part of Germany's reason to exist as a state.

Germany has received lofty praise for making Holocaust remembrance part of its national consciousness and institutionalizing the fight against antisemitism.

Across Germany, there are Holocaust monuments and museums and academic centers dedicated to the study of antisemitism. Holocaust denial and displaying Nazi symbols are illegal. Young Germans are required to learn about the horrors committed by their ancestors during the Third Reich and school trips to former concentration camps are common.

In keeping with its policy, after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack Germany dismissed calls for a cease-fire and banned pro-Palestinian marches and events, labeling them as antisemitic.

But as Israel's retaliation against Palestinians turned more deadly and destructive, Germany's unwavering pro-Israel stance and crackdown on criticism of Israel sparked dismay and fury with critics saying its pro-Israel policy had become a tool of repression against Palestinians, Muslims, migrants and even Jews opposed to Israeli policies.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Courts, International, Law, Politics

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