Ms. Blinne Ni Ghralaigh KC is a British/Irish barrister and one of eight lawyers who addressed the International Commission of Jurists in the case Concerning Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v Israel). Ms. Ni Ghralaigh’s address is a searing indictment of Israel’s genocide against Gaza. The live and printed speech are on the ICJ’s website. Here is a small portion of it.

Madam President, Members of the Court, there is an urgent need for provisional measures to protect Palestinians in Gaza from the irreparable prejudice caused by Israel’s violations of the Genocide Convention.

The United Nations Secretary-General and its Chiefs describe the situation in Gaza variously as “a crisis of humanity”, a “living hell”, a “blood bath”, a situation of “utter, deepening [and unmatched] horror”, on a massive scale”. As the United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs stated last Friday: “Gaza has become a place of death and despair . . . Families are sleeping in the open as temperatures plummet. Areas where civilians were told to relocate for their safety have come under bombardment.

Medical facilities are under relentless attack. The few hospitals that are partially functional are overwhelmed with trauma cases, critically short of all supplies, and inundated by desperate people seeking safety. A public health disaster is unfolding. Infectious diseases are spreading in overcrowded shelters as sewers spill over. Some 180 Palestinian women are giving birth daily amidst this chaos. People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded. Famine is around the corner. For children in particular, the past 12 weeks have been traumatic: No food. No water. No school. Nothing but the terrifying sounds of war, day in and day out. Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence — while the world watches on.”

The Court has heard of the horrific death toll, and of the more than 7,000 Palestinian men, women and children reported missing, presumed dead or dying slow, excruciating deaths trapped under the rubble. Reports of field executions, and torture and ill-treatment are mounting, as are images of decomposing bodies of Palestinian men, women and children, left unburied where they were killed — some being picked upon by animals. It is becoming ever clearer that huge swathes of Gaza — entire towns, villages, refugee camps — are being wiped from the map. As you have heard, but it bears repeating, according to the World Food Programme, “[f]our out of five people [in the world], in famine or a catastrophic type of hunger, are in Gaza right now”. Indeed, experts warn that deaths from starvation and disease risk significantly outstripping deaths from bombings.

The daily statistics stand as clear evidence of the urgency and of the irreparable prejudice: on the basis of the current figures, on average 247 Palestinians are being killed and are at risk of being killed each day, many of them literally blown to pieces. They include 48 mothers each day — two every hour — and over 117 children each day, leading UNICEF to call Israel’s actions a “war on children”. On current rates, which show no sign of abating, each day, over three medics, two teachers, more than one United Nations employee and more than one journalist will be killed, many while at work, or in what appear to be targeted attacks on their family homes or where they are sheltering. The risk of famine will increase each day. Each day, an average of 629 people will be wounded, some multiple times over as they move from place to place, desperately seeking sanctuary. Each day, over 10 Palestinian children will have one or both legs amputated, many without anaesthetic. Each day, on current rates, an average of 3,900 Palestinian homes will be damaged or destroyed. More mass graves will be dug…

The first responders who have spent three months — without international assistance — trying to dig families out of the rubble with their bare hands will continue to be targeted; on current figures one will be killed almost every second day, sometimes in attacks launched against those attending the scene to rescue the wounded. Each day yet more desperate people will be forced to relocate from where they are sheltering or will be bombed in places where they had been told to evacuate to. Entire multi-generational families will be obliterated; and yet more Palestinian children will become “WCNSF”: “Wounded Child – No Surviving Family” — the terrible new acronym borne out of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Madam President, Members of the Court, if the indication of provisional measures was justified on the facts in those cases I have cited, how could it not be here…? How could they not be justified in a situation that humanitarian veterans from crises spanning as far back as the killing fields of Cambodia say that that they are “out of words to describe” it.

South Africa now respectfully and humbly calls on this honourable Court to do what is in its power to do, to indicate the provisional measures that are so urgently required to prevent further irreparable harm to the Palestinian people in Gaza, whose hopes — including for their very survival — are now vested in this Court.

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