In an atrocious reverse of history, the international convention on genocide – essentially born from the intense battle of a single individual, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish public prosecutor who began working on it in 1933 – is at the center of the hearing of the International Court of Justice in The Hague which faces theaccusation raised by South Africa against Israel for the thousands of civilian deaths in the war in Gaza, triggered by the Hamas massacre on 7 October.
Lemkin not only summarized the crime, but coined the term genocide in 1944 for what Winston Churchill had called a “nameless crime” and spent the post-war years in an intense individual lobby campaign at the newly founded United Nations, after the escape from the Nazis and safety in the United States.
The word became the term to describe the Nazis’ systematic murder of approximately six million Jews and other people based on their ethnicity. It is one of the most serious crimes a country can be accused of. Now in the dock is Israel, which has chosen to defend itself at the Palais de la Paix in The Hague as proof of the seriousness of the accusation and the need to protect its reputation.
The Genocide Convention, which entered into force on 12 January 1951, was the first human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9 December 1948 with the commitment of the international community to ensure that the atrocities of the Second World War would never be repeated again. world War.
The obligation, in addition to the prohibition not to commit genocide, is considered as a rule of customary international law, therefore binding on all States, regardless of whether they have ratified the Convention or not. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) settles disputes between UN member states that have accepted its jurisdiction, which should not be confused with the International Criminal Court, established in 2002 (not linked to the UN and also with headquarters in The Hague) which has the task of judging individuals, and not states, found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.