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Article International: International Court of Justice Rejects Nicaragua's Request to Order Germany to Halt Aid to Israel

On April 30, 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected a request by Nicaragua to order Germany to halt its aid to Israel. Germany has been providing Israel with military assistance, including military equipment, following the October 7, 2023, attack by Hamas.

In the case of Nicaragua v. Germany, Nicaragua alleged that Israel used Germany’s aid to breach international obligations to the Palestinian people, such as the Genocide Convention, international humanitarian law, or jus cogens. Under article 41 of the Statute of the ICJ, the ICJ can impose “provisional measures,” similar to injunctive relief, in order to preserve rights of parties that absent such measures would be irreparably harmed. Nicaragua requested the ICJ to impose such provisional measures against Germany. The ICJ, however, determined that the circumstances did not warrant such measures.

Background

Following the October 7, 2023, attack on Israel by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip, Israel launched a military operation in Gaza which resulted in “a large number of deaths and injuries, as well as the massive destruction of homes, the forcible displacement of the vast majority of the population, and extensive damage to civilian infrastructure.” (Nicaragua v. Germany, para. 22.)

Nicaragua requested the ICJ to impose provisional measures requiring Germany to immediately suspend aid to Israel, in particular its provision of military equipment and war weapons.  (Nicaragua v. Germany, para. 11(1).) Nicaragua also demanded that Germany ensure that the military equipment and war weapons it delivered to Israel not be used to commit serious violations of the Genocide Convention or other international law. (Id. para. 11(2).)

Nicaragua alleged that Germany’s aid violated the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions with regard to Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip. (Paras. 2, 14.)

Under article 1 of the Genocide Convention, the contracting parties, such as Germany, have confirmed that genocide constitutes a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish. The Genocide Convention defines genocide as the action of destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, by killing members of the group for example. (Genocide Convention art. 2.) Nicaragua stated that the German government authorized exports of military equipment and war weapons worth more than 326 million euros (about US$350 million) to Israel. (Para. 14.) It claimed that Germany must be aware of the situation in Gaza and the likelihood that the equipment and weapons it provided would be used by Israel “to bomb and kill thousands of Palestinian children, women and men,” thereby breaching the Genocide Convention. (Id. para. 14.)

Decision

By a vote of fifteen to one, the ICJ held in favor of Germany and rejected Nicaragua’s request. (Para. 26.)

Germany claimed that in accordance with the Monetary Gold principle, an admissibility criterion for the ICJ to exercise its jurisdiction, the court was first required to establish that Israel committed genocide. In Germany’s opinion this was necessary to determine whether Germany may have breached the Genocide and Geneva conventions by providing aid. (Verbatim record 2024/16, para. 15(a); Nicaragua v. Germany, para. 13.) The Monetary Gold principle applies when the court is precluded from determining the questions submitted in a case because the legal interests of a third country, such as Israel, which is not a party to the legal proceedings, “would not only be affected by a decision, but would form the very subject-matter of the decision.” (Case of the Monetary Gold Removed from Rome in 1943, at 17.)

However, the ICJ did not apply the Monetary Gold principle and did not rule on whether Israel was committing genocide. It held that before applying the Monetary Gold principle, it must first consider whether Nicaragua has proven the circumstances that require provisional measures. (Nicaragua v. Germany, para. 13.)

The ICJ concluded that the facts presented by both parties that “are not such as to require the exercise of its power … to indicate provisional measures.” It based its decision on the fact that there had been a notable decline in the value of material sent by Germany to Israel from €200 million (about US$216 million) in October 2023 to approximately €1 million (about US$1.08 million) in March 2024. Furthermore, the court noted that since October 2023, a total of only four licenses for war weapons had been granted. In contrast, 98% of the licenses were granted for “other military equipment,” not “war equipment.” (Id. para. 18.) Based on these facts, the ICJ did not consider that provisional measures were warranted.

Concerns about the Situation in the Gaza Strip

While it declined to impose provisional measures, the ICJ emphasized that it remained deeply concerned about the conditions of the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip. (Id. para. 22.) It also recalled that all state parties under the Geneva Convention are obligated to respect and ensure respect for the Convention and international humanitarian law in all circumstances. (Id. para. 23; Geneva Convention, art. 1.)

Prepared by Eva Dauke, Law Library Intern, under the supervision of Jenny Gesley, Foreign Law Specialist

May 23, 2024

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Chicago citation style:

Gesley, Jenny. International: International Court of Justice Rejects Nicaragua's Request to Order Germany to Halt Aid to Israel. 2024. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-22/international-international-court-of-justice-rejects-nicaraguas-request-to-order-germany-to-halt-aid-to-israel/.

APA citation style:

Gesley, J. (2024) International: International Court of Justice Rejects Nicaragua's Request to Order Germany to Halt Aid to Israel. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-22/international-international-court-of-justice-rejects-nicaraguas-request-to-order-germany-to-halt-aid-to-israel/.

MLA citation style:

Gesley, Jenny. International: International Court of Justice Rejects Nicaragua's Request to Order Germany to Halt Aid to Israel. 2024. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2024-05-22/international-international-court-of-justice-rejects-nicaraguas-request-to-order-germany-to-halt-aid-to-israel/>.