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In a significant interim ruling on Tuesday, The International Court of Justice (ICJ) rejected a request from Nicaragua to order Germany to cease its arms supply to Israel amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. The decision carries potential implications for military aid suppliers to Israel and their potential accountability for the usage of these weapons.

Nicaragua’s Accusations Against Germany

Nicaragua, a longstanding supporter of the Palestinian cause, argued that Germany, by providing Israel with military and financial aid, is facilitating the commission of genocide in Gaza, thereby violating the Genocide Convention. Nicaragua had called on the ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court, to issue an emergency order requiring Germany to stop providing arms to Israel and to ensure that those already supplied were not unlawfully used. However, the judges denied this request.

Germany’s Response to the Allegations

Germany, a staunch ally of Israel and the second-largest provider of military assistance to the country after the United States, rejected the accusations. The German Foreign Ministry expressed satisfaction with the court’s ruling. In a statement, the ministry reiterated Germany’s position as a peace-seeking entity in the Middle East conflict, emphasizing its continuous efforts towards a two-state solution and providing humanitarian aid to Gazans. Germany also highlighted that Hamas was responsible for initiating a “spiral of suffering” in the region, a situation against which Israel has a right to defend itself.

Understanding the Genocide Convention

Both Germany and Nicaragua are signatories to the 1948 Genocide Convention, which obliges them to act to prevent genocide. Genocide is defined as intending to destroy a group not only through killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm but also by creating “conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. Israel has consistently denied accusations of committing genocide in Gaza, arguing that its military operations aim to preserve civilian life and accusing Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

Earlier Rulings and Future Expectations

Earlier this year, the ICJ issued separate interim orders requested by South Africa, specifying that Israel must prevent its forces in Gaza from actions banned under the Genocide Convention, must prevent and punish public incitements to genocide, and must allow more access to humanitarian aid. The court also demanded the immediate release of all hostages still held by Hamas. It is expected to take at least two years to rule on the question of whether Israel has committed genocide but found a “plausible” risk of genocide.

Germany’s Military Exports to Israel

Germany countered arguments that it has violated international law with its military exports to Israel. It stated that the shipments are always licensed under German and European rules. Furthermore, Germany argued that almost all of its recent military assistance to Israel comprised nonlethal aid.

The United States’ Position and Nicaraguan Hypocrisy

Unlike Germany, the United States has shielded itself and usually needs to consent to a case on most issues. It has further protected itself from the Genocide Convention, signing the convention but exempting itself from any obligations, such as intervening to stop a genocide or paying reparations if found to be complicit. Critics of the Nicaraguan government argue that its pursuit of Germany for breaking international law is hypocritical, given recent U.N. reports accusing Nicaragua of “systematic human rights violations” and increasing repression of government opponents at home.

The ICJ’s ruling on Nicaragua’s appeal against Germany’s arms supply to Israel marks another chapter in the complex international relations surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict. As parties continue to navigate the interplay of geopolitical alliances, human rights obligations, and international law, the world watches on, anticipating the impacts of these decisions on the tumultuous Middle East scenario.