February 7, 2024
SINGAPORE – Singapore is studying the legal implications of provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s military operations against Hamas in Gaza, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said, adding that due legal process should be allowed to run its course.
Noting that orders by the World Court are generally binding on the litigant, he added: “Respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, has always been a fundamental principle of Singapore’s foreign policy.”
He was responding in a written reply on Feb 5 to Mr Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (Chua Chu Kang GRC), who had asked a parliamentary question about Singapore’s stance on the application for such measures sought by South Africa.
In December 2023, South Africa applied to the ICJ to declare Israel’s military assault on Gaza a genocide and order an immediate halt to Israeli military operations in Gaza.
Mr Zhulkarnain also asked what actions Singapore will take regarding foreign and diplomatic relations in the light of the contractual obligations of member states under Article I of the 1948 Genocide Convention.
The 153 states – including Israel – that have ratified or acceded to this convention have an obligation not to commit genocide.
On Jan 26, the ICJ ordered six provisional measures, including for Israel to refrain from acts under the convention, prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to genocide, and take immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.
The convention was enacted in the wake of the mass murder of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust, and defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
Some of these acts include killing members of the group, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, and deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about the destruction of the group in whole or in part.
The court, which is based in The Hague in the Netherlands, also ordered Israel to preserve evidence of genocide and to submit a report to the ICJ within a month regarding its compliance with the order.
Israel has dismissed the allegations as “baseless”, and accused South Africa of cooperating with a terrorist organisation.
While the ICJ’s decisions are final and without appeal, the court has no way to enforce them.
The top United Nations court also stopped short of calling for an immediate ceasefire to the war that was triggered after the Oct 7 attacks on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Experts have said a ruling on the overall case, which will determine whether or not Israel is committing genocide, could take as long as three or four years.
In his reply, Dr Balakrishnan also said that at the UN, Singapore has voted in favour of resolutions that called for an immediate humanitarian truce or ceasefire, the unconditional release of all hostages, and the urgent and unhindered provision of humanitarian aid to Gaza.