Confronting the threat of impunity and safeguarding the rule of law: Holding Israel accountable

On February 25, 2024, outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC, a 25-year-old active-duty United States military officer named Aaron Bushnell set himself on fire in what seems to be a poignant protest against Israel’s military actions in Gaza. This event serves as a stark reminder of the deep-seated emotions and strong convictions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, emphasizing the pressing need for a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis.

It is worth noting that the International Court of Justice, in the case of Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip (South Africa v. Israel), on 26th January 2024, issued provisional measures instructing Israel to take all necessary steps to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The orders by the Court have largely been ignored by the Israelis, who continue to block access to humanitarian aid and basic services. Following the ICJ’s order, Israeli authorities have reportedly demolished the premises of at least two humanitarian organizations in Gaza and have taken actions to weaken the operations of UNRWA, the primary provider of humanitarian aid in Gaza, upon which more than half of other humanitarian organizations depend for their work.

Israel’s flagrant disregard for the world court’s ruling directly challenges the foundation of the rules-based international order. The actions significantly undermine the rule of law, as well as jeopardize the bodies tasked with enforcing international law and the system that guarantees protection for civilians around the world. Key features of the post-war world order include the creation of the United Nations (UN) to promote international cooperation and prevent conflicts, as well as the establishment of other international institutions that promote economic stability and development. Israel’s actions, by undermining the International Court of Justice, are contributing to a dangerous environment of anarchy and lawlessness.

In a world where the rule of law should be sacrosanct, the recent actions of certain governments, notably Israel, have highlighted a troubling trend toward impunity and disregard for international legal norms. The International Court of Justice, established to uphold justice and ensure accountability on the global stage, is being blatantly undermined, sending a chilling message that those who are powerful can act with impunity.

By flouting the ICJ’s rulings and engaging in actions that contravene international law, Israel and others are not only eroding the foundations of the rules-based international order but also jeopardizing the safety and security of civilians in conflict zones. This blatant disregard for the rule of law sets a dangerous precedent, emboldening others to follow suit and undermining the very fabric of global governance.

The international community must stand firm against this tide of impunity, holding those responsible to account and reaffirming the fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law.

Failure to do so not only threatens the credibility of international institutions but also endangers the lives and rights of countless individuals around the world. The benefits of peaceful solutions to global issues cannot be overstated. In a world often plagued by conflict and discord, the value of diplomacy, cooperation, and non-violent resolution of disputes cannot be emphasized enough.

First and foremost, pacific solutions help prevent the loss of life and destruction that often accompany armed conflicts. By seeking peaceful means to address global challenges, nations can avoid the devastating consequences of war, including civilian casualties, displacement, and long-term societal and economic damage.

Additionally, peaceful solutions are often more sustainable in the long run. Resolving conflicts through dialogue and negotiation can lead to agreements that address the root causes of the issue, rather than simply temporarily suppressing them. This can help build lasting peace and stability, laying the groundwork for prosperous and harmonious societies.

Moreover, peaceful solutions are more likely to garner international support and cooperation. By demonstrating a commitment to resolving issues through peaceful means, nations can build trust and goodwill with other countries, leading to increased collaboration on a wide range of global challenges, from climate change to pandemics.

The benefits of pacific solutions to global problems are clear. By prioritizing diplomacy, cooperation, and non-violence, nations can avoid the horrors of war, build lasting peace, and foster international cooperation for the greater good of all.

Israel, like all nations, must adhere to the rules of international law. These laws are in place to ensure the rights and protections of all individuals and to maintain global peace and security. Israel’s disregard for international law not only undermines its own credibility but also jeopardizes the prospects for peace in the region. The continued occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people only serve to fuel resentment and perpetuate the cycle of violence.

It is incumbent upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its actions and to ensure that it abides by the rules of international law. This includes respecting the rights of Palestinians, halting settlement expansion, and engaging in meaningful negotiations for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Only through adherence to these principles can Israel hope to achieve lasting peace and security for itself and its neighbours.

Hon. Gitobu Imanyara is a Kenyan Advocate and journalist with over 40 years of experience in the field of law and journalism. He holds a Bachelor of Laws with Honors from the University of Nairobi and a Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Ken-ya School of Law. He is also a graduate with a Master of Laws in International Criminal Justice from Strathmore University. Mr. Imanyara has extensive experience practicing as an Advocate at both trial and appellate levels in both criminal and civil matters and court martial in Kenya. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Imanyara is also a prominent figure in the field of journalism. He is the Founder, Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Nairobi Law Monthly from 1987 to 2003 and The Platform for Law, Justice & Society Magazine from December 2014 to date. He has also served as an International Board Member of Article 19 and a member of the International Advisory Editorial Board of Human Rights Quarterly. Mr. Imanyara has received numerous awards and honors for his contributions to the field of freedom and democracy, including the Prize for Freedom from Liberal International, the Golden Pen of Freedom from the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers, and the Human Rights Award from the International Human Rights Law Group. He also served as a Member of Parliament for Central Imenti Constituency from 1997-2002 and 2007-2012, and as a Member and Kenya Delegation Leader of the Pan African Parliament from 2007-2012. He has also served as International Board Member of the London based Article 19. Hon. Gitobu is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of The Platform for Law, Justice & Society.