An Irish legal representative for South Africa, addressing the International Court of Justice, claimed that Gaza is not a safe place as Israel allegedly engages in acts constituting genocide. Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh KC expressed concern that the atrocities were being live-streamed globally, depicting the “horror of the genocide against the Palestinian people.”
She criticized the international community for not intervening, noting that Palestinians, in a desperate attempt, were broadcasting their own destruction in the hope that the world would respond. Ms. Ní Ghrálaigh urged the court to implement urgent provisional measures directing Israel to cease military operations in Gaza to protect Palestinians from irreparable harm due to Israel’s violations of the Genocide Convention.
The Genocide Convention defines genocide as acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group. Ms. Ní Ghrálaigh cited statements from UN officials describing the situation in Gaza as a “crisis of humanity” and a “bloodbath,” emphasizing the siege’s dire impact on the population.
Quoting the UN’s undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, she highlighted the grim conditions in Gaza, where families endure open-air sleeping in freezing temperatures, medical facilities face relentless attacks, and infectious diseases spread in overcrowded shelters with overflowing sewers. Ms. Ní Ghrálaigh, an accomplished barrister in international human rights law, emphasized the record levels of food insecurity and the looming threat of famine, particularly for children.
She lamented the trauma experienced by children in Gaza – 12 weeks of no food, no water, and no school, accompanied by the constant sounds of war. According to the regional health ministry, over 23,000 Palestinians have reportedly died in Israeli strikes in Gaza since October 7th, with more than 7,000 Palestinians missing and presumed dead or dying under debris.
Ms. Ní Ghrálaigh painted a grim picture of daily casualties, including mothers and children, and highlighted the disproportionate impact on children, leading UNICEF to label Israel’s actions as a “war on children.” Drawing on her experience in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, she warned that deaths from disease and starvation could surpass those from bombings.
The lawyer underscored the harrowing statistics, noting daily amputations of children’s limbs without anesthesia and the creation of a new acronym, “WCNSF” – Wounded Child No Surviving Family. She also raised concerns about field executions and torture, claiming that Gaza was becoming uninhabitable, with entire communities being wiped from the map.
Ms. Ni Ghralaigh argued that almost two million Palestinians were repeatedly displaced, forced into shrinking areas where they faced continuous bombing and death. She concluded her argument by suggesting that the very reputation of international law hinged on the court’s decision to grant provisional measures in this case.