Bosnia war, genocide survivors back ICJ Gaza genocide case against Israel

Bosnia war, genocide survivors back ICJ Gaza genocide case against Israel
Bosnian war and genocide survivors have urged the ICJ to order measures asked for by South Africa in their case against Israel, including a ceasefire in Gaza.
3 min read
18 January, 2024
Israel and South Africa pled their cases in public hearings at The Hague last week [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu via Getty]

More than 1,000 Bosnian war and genocide survivors have signed an open letter in support of South Africa's case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

In the letter, the Bosnian survivors of genocide and war that took place from 1992 to 1995 urged the ICJ to accept South Africa's demands in their case - including an immediate ceasefire - "to protect Palestinians in Gaza".  

"The unfolding atrocities since October 7th demand immediate action to prevent further loss of life, injuries, and human suffering," the open letter reads.

"We are deeply troubled by the apparent impunity of the State of Israel for these crimes, reminiscent of the tragic circumstances we endured during the Bosnian war and genocide."

Some 100,000 people were killed in the war in Bosnia, including in the Srebrenica genocide of July 1995, when more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were killed by the Bosnian Serb army under the command of Ratko Mladic.

Bosnia's Foreign Minister Elmedin Konaković told Al Araby TV earlier this week: "I personally support the Palestinian struggle for freedom."

"Unfortunately, the Bosnian presidency does not see it in the same way."

More than once, Bosnians have turned to the ICJ for help to stop the war.

In 1993, Bosnia instituted proceedings against former Yugoslavia to prevent genocide, including asking the ICJ to order provisional measures that would immediately halt its military activity.

"History has shown us that the failure of the International Community to impose a suspension of military activity on the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1993 resulted in genocide, forcible ethnic displacement, and various crimes against humanity," the open letter reads.

"A timely ceasefire, as suggested by the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993, could undoubtedly have saved many lives."

Just over a decade after the war, Bosnia brought a case to the ICJ that accused Serbia of committing genocide against the Bosniak Muslim people.

But the ICJ ruled in 2007 that genocide had been committed in Srebrenica, Serbia was neither directly or indirectly responsible for it.

More than 24,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its war on the Palestinian territory on 7 October, and almost all of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants have been displaced from their homes.

Israel has bombed schools, hospitals and places of worship housing the displaced, committed field executions, and tortured Palestinians they have detained.

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Disease and famine have also emerged in Gaza as Israel keeps a tight stranglehold on the entry of aid into the enclave.

South Africa filed its case against Israel at the ICJ on 29 December. Dozens of countries have since backed the case.

There were public hearings at the ICJ last week, where South Africa and Israel put forwarded their cases.

Other countries have shown support for separate ICJ proceedings against Israel, in which the UN General Assembly asked the court for an advisory opinion on Israel's control of, and policies on, occupied East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank.

Proceedings for that case will take place next month.

There appears to be some disconnect on the Palestinian issue between Bosnia's presidency and its government and public.