British lawyer will represent Israel at UN court against genocide claims

Professor Malcolm Shaw KC will represent the country in The Hague.

Gwyn Wright
Thursday 11 January 2024 18:00 GMT
Genocide allegations: Israel to defend itself at top UN court

A British barrister will defend Israel at the International Court of Justice against South Africa’s claim the Jewish state is committing genocide in Gaza.

Professor Malcolm Shaw KC, who is a published author on the ICJ and international law as well as an expert on territorial disputes, will represent the country at the court in The Hague.

The barrister, who is in his 70s, is also a human rights lawyer and has appeared before the ICJ as well as the UK Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and High Court in the past.

Essex Court Chambers, where he works, previously said the lawyer is “proud, honoured and privileged” to have been asked to represent Israel in the case.

He was the founder and first director of the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex in 1983.

Prof Shaw also wrote a widely-cited textbook on international law now in its ninth edition, and the fifth edition of a book on the law and practise of the ICJ.

The barrister has represented the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Serbia and Cameroon at the Hague in the past.

He has also acted for the Ukrainian government in commercial arbitration cases against Russia since 2016.

Under the Genocide Convention, genocide is defined as acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.

During the hearing, which began on Thursday, South Africa’s Irish barrister Blinne Ni Ghralaigh KC said UN chiefs have described the situation in Gaza as “a crisis of humanity, a living hell, a bloodbath, a situation of utter, deepening and unmatched horror where an entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essential for survival on a massive scale.”

More than 23,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7 last year- when Hamas militants crossed the border into Israel and killed around 1,300 people as well as taking around 240 Israelis hostage.

Israel says its operation in Gaza is necessary for the country’s security.

South Africa has often compared Israeli policies towards the Palestinians to apartheid inflicted on non-white South Africans between 1948 and 1994, a claim Israel strongly contests.

Israel’s government has denounced South Africa’s lawsuit as a “blood libel” against it.

The country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, previously said: “No, South Africa, it is not we who have come to perpetrate genocide, it is Hamas.

”It would murder all of us if it could. In contrast, the IDF [Israeli army] is acting as morally as possible.”

The ICJ settles disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on international legal issues, but Israel has often claimed it is biased and has not engaged with the court.

Unlike the International Criminal Court, it cannot prosecute individuals and its rulings are often ignored.

In 2004, the court found the Israel-West Bank barrier to be in breach of international law.

Israel said building the wall was necessary to stop suicide bombings.

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