The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is all set for a high-stakes legal battle starting Thursday.
In an 84-page filing, South Africa has accused Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip, laying out its case with exhaustive details of the deadly actions since last October, including mass killings and destruction, along with crippling curbs on essentials like water, food, medicine, fuel, shelter and other types of humanitarian assistance.
Over two days, both sides will present their arguments before judges in The Hague.
But who are the lawyers chosen by South Africa and Israel for the showdown?
Legal experts have hailed South Africa for putting together a team of “first-rate international lawyers.”
According to media reports, the team will be led by John Dugard, a former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Dugard, viewed as one of South Africa’s foremost international law experts, has experience with the ICJ, having served as an ad hoc judge in 2008.
In an interview with Anadolu in December, Dugard was vehement in his criticism of Israel’s actions, saying that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his war Cabinet, and many members of the Israeli army are responsible for the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and, possibly, the crime of genocide.”
Other notable members of the South African legal team include senior counsel Adila Hassam, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, an advocate of the Johannesburg Bar, and international lawyer Max Du Plessis.
The team also includes lawyers Tshidiso Ramogale, Sarah Pudifin-Jones and Lerato Zikalala, while Irish laywers Blinne Ni Ghralaigh and British barrister Vaughan Lowe are providing external counsel.
Israel has chosen British lawyer Malcolm Shaw to represent it at the ICJ.
Shaw is considered one of the world’s leading experts on international law and has appeared before the ICJ in the past, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
Over the course of his career, Shaw has “developed an international reputation for advising on territorial disputes; law of the sea; state succession; state immunity; recognition of foreign governments and states; human rights; self-determination, international arbitration and international organizations,” according to his profile on Essex Court Chambers.
He has also advised various governments, including the UK, Ukraine, UAE, Serbia and others.
Apart from the ICJ, Shaw has previously been involved in cases at the European Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Justice, and other top courts around the world.
Shaw is reported to be one the four lawyers to represent Israel at the ICJ hearings, but name and details of the other legal experts are yet to be announced.
Ad hoc judges
The ICJ has 15 judges who will be hearing South Africa’s case against Israel.
They are all from different countries, including US, Russia, China, France, Australia, Brazil, Germany, India, Lebanon and Morocco.
Under ICJ rules, a country that is party to a case and does not have a judge of its nationality on the bench can nominate an ad hoc judge, which is the case for both Israel and South Africa.
Israel has picked Aharon Barak, former head of the country’s Supreme Court.
Barak has voiced support for Israel’s war on Gaza, claiming the military offensive was not in violation of humanitarian law, according to The Times of Israel.
He also defended Israel’s decision to build a separation wall through the occupied West Bank, following a 2004 ruling by the ICJ declaring it illegal.
For South Africa, Justice Dikgang Moseneke will be the ad hoc judge in the ICJ case.
Moseneke is a former deputy chief justice with a distinguished legal and academic career in South Africa and abroad.