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January 12, 2024

STATEMENT OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER OF SOUTH AFRICA, HE RIEAZ SHAIK, ON SOUTH AFRICA’S APPLICATION TO THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL

10 JANUARY 2024

OTTAWA

We live in times of catastrophe. We – either as individuals, communities, organisations or States – are called upon by the troubles of our time, now more than ever, to assert our common and shared humanity.

In our endeavors to find a path to that shared humanity, we would do well to heed the wisdom of the ancient sage Rumi, who said:

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there’.

This is the field of human understanding. The field of human love, compassion, empathy, and justice – all of which constitutes the hallowed ground of our shared humanity.

Arriving at this field of understanding, brings forth the living expression of the African humanist value of ‘Ubuntu’. ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’ which means ‘a person is a person through other people’.

I am, because you are. In asserting my right to live, I must first assert your right to life.

Arriving at this field of our shared humanity, means to embrace the philosophy of the Dakota people of North America, – ‘Mitakuye Oyasin’, that embodies the universal truth that ‘All are related’. Indeed, in our shared humanity, we are all related.

The wisdom of Rumi, the belief in the truisms that ‘we are all related’ and that ‘I am because you are’, compels us all, as human beings, to make haste, more so because of the troubles of our time, to that hallowed ground of our shared humanity.

The government of South Africa, in its application to the International Court of Justice, has made clear its intention to uphold its obligation to our shared humanity as a signatory to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

To this end, we have instituted proceedings against the State of Israel for its military actions and intentions directed against the Palestinian people.

We have done so, firm in our conviction that the State of Israel’s conduct against the Palestinian people may amount to genocide.

We have done so, in keeping with our obligations of the Convention, as a positive step to prevent genocide. We ask the World Court to hold the State of Israel accountable for its own obligation to prevent genocide.

In keeping with the terms of the Convention, we have requested an order of the Court for urgent necessary provisional measures, which includes inter alia, the binding obligation on the State of Israel to immediately suspend its military operations in and against Gaza.

South Africa has heard the unbearable cries of anguish of the innocent from the killing fields of Gaza and broader Palestine. We mourn the deaths of all civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli, who have lost their lives in this senseless conflict.

We must act to bring this brutal, systematic and organised killing of Palestinian civilians to an immediate and urgent end. Not to do so, is to negate our shared humanity and to violate our deeply held value of ‘Ubuntu’.

By our action, we raise our voice beyond the binary ideas of ‘rightdoing and wrongdoing’, to shout for all to hear: Stop the killing! Not one more day! Stop now!

We have acted in this manner, not only because of the wisdom of the ancient sages, or our legal, moral and ethical obligation to do so, but because we also believe that this is the most viable and immediate path to peace.

For far too long, we have ignored the prayer of the Palestinian people to be seen, to be heard and to be recognised for who they are, to live as a people in the land of their birth, free from the fear of oppression, occupation and want.

For far too long, we have ignored the pleas of the Palestinian people to assert their right to self-determination. Our shared humanity must demand from all of us, to hear their prayer and pleas. This is the challenge of our time, and for the sake of all humanity, we must act.

We as South Africans, whose lived experience has been shaped by centuries of apartheid, know precisely the lived reality of apartheid. We have lived apartheid and we have suffered apartheid. We know apartheid when we see apartheid.

We are therefore comfortable in the knowledge that none dare contradict us, when we assert that the lived reality of all Palestinians today is nothing short of the dehumanisation of an apartheid life. Apartheid, as we all know, is a crime against humanity.

In bringing our application before the ICJ, we make no demand that others should join us.

Each country, must examine their own conscience in the cold light of all that we see occurring daily and relentlessly in Gaza.

Each country must find comfort in their own understanding of what it means to be ‘human’ and determine for themselves their contribution to our ‘shared humanity’. We can only but humbly ask that in doing so, that they too embrace the wisdom that ‘we are all related’ and that ‘I am, because you are’.

As a country and a people represented by our government, We, as South Africans, have made our choice. We have walked to that field of human understanding with our fearful but resolute courage in a manner consistent with our consciousness that rallies behind the clarion call of the Convention to prevent genocide.

We do so urgently. We ask forgiveness for not acting sooner. Give peace a chance.

Thank you.

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Dotan Rousso. Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. Currently working as a college professor in Canada.

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