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Israel’s security at core of German foreign policy due to Holocaust, ICJ hears

Nicaragua asks UN’s highest court to halt German weapons sales to Israel, alleging it is breaching obligation to prevent genocide


Tania von Uslar-Gleichen and Christian Tams, representing Germany, at the ICJ hearing on Monday on Nicaragua's claim that Germany is aiding Israel's genocide in Gaza. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Germany has said Israel’s security is at “the core” of its foreign policy because of the history of the Holocaust, but denied accusations at the UN’s highest court that is aiding genocide in Gaza by arming Israel.


Nicaragua has brought a case against Germany at the international court of justice (ICJ) urging judges to order a halt to German weapons sales to Israel, alleging it is in breach of its obligation to prevent genocide and ensure respect of international humanitarian law.


On Tuesday, Germany had its chance to respond to the accusations levelled against it after Nicaragua’s legal team opened the case on Monday. Nicaragua told the ICJ that it was “pathetic” for Germany to provide Palestinians with humanitarian aid while supplying the arms that killed them, and that Germany seemed “not to be able to differentiate between self-defence and genocide”.


Responding to the criticisms, Germany’s representatives insisted that it supplied arms only “on the basis of detailed scrutiny … that far exceeds the requirements of international law”.


Tania von Uslar-Gleichen, legal adviser for the German foreign ministry, told the court: “Our history is the reason why Israel’s security has been at the core of Germany’s foreign policy.


“Where Germany has provided support to Israel, including in a form of export of arms and other military equipment, the quality and purposes of these supplies have been grossly distorted by Nicaragua.”


She added: “Germany has learned from its past, a past that includes the responsibility for one of the most horrific crimes in human history, the Shoah.”


Despite Nicaragua’s criticisms of such an argument, another lawyer, Christian Tams, emphasised that “Germany continues to provide humanitarian support (in Gaza) every single day”.


Germany has also made clear that it believes Israel is acting in self-defence in response to the 7 October attacks in which Hamas and other Palestinian militants killed approximately 1,200 people. Israel has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in its retaliatory offensive.


Nicaragua also wants the ICJ to make Germany resume funding of Unrwa. Germany withdrew support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after Israel’s so-far unsubstantiated allegations that 12 staff were involved in the 7 October attacks.


The ICJ is expected to issue provisional measures on Nicaragua’s case in weeks, but a final ruling could take years.


In January, in response to a case brought against Israel by South Africa, the ICJ issued several interim measures designed to halt any potential acts of genocide.


Another lawyer for Germany, Samuel Wordsworth, argued that as the ICJ had not yet ruled whether Israel was in breach of the genocide convention, Germany could not be violating the obligation to prevent genocide.


“How can it be said that there was a failure to ensure respect of a third state, if the failure on the part of that third state to respect is not established in the first place?” he asked.

 

(c) 2024, The Guardian

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