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Germany defends itself against genocide complicity allegations at World Court

Officials say case brought by Nicaragua has 'no basis in fact or law' after being accused of 'facilitating the commission of genocide'
A woman holds a placard as people protest outside the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague on 8 April, 2024 (AFP/Robin van Lonkhuijsen)

Germany has defended itself against allegations that it is "facilitating" a genocide in Gaza with its uncritical support for Israel's assault on the Palestinian enclave.

Speaking in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday, the country said its own involvement in the genocide of Jews during the Holocaust justified its support for Israel.

“Our history is why Israel's security has been at the heart of German foreign policy,” said Tania von Uslar-Gleichen, Germany's representative before the ICJ.

On Monday, Nicaragua presented its case against Germany as part of a two-day hearing, accusing the country of "facilitating the commission of genocide" and demanding the court impose emergency measures to halt German arms exports to Israel and reinstate funding for the UN Palestinian refugee agency, Unrwa.

In his opening comments to the court, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the Netherlands Carlos Jose Arguello Gomez said that, through its continued support of Israel: "Germany is failing to honour its own obligation to prevent genocide or to ensure respect of international humanitarian law."

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Nicaragua demanded the court issue five provisional measures, including that Germany "immediately suspend its aid to Israel, in particular its military assistance, including military equipment" and that it "reverse its decision to suspend the funding of Unrwa".

The implementation of these measures was "increasingly more urgent and necessary" in light of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Strip, the delegation said.

Germany on Tuesday said they strongly rejected Nicaragua's accusations, however.

"They have no basis in fact or law," said Uslar-Gleichen.

From the start of the war, Gemany has justified its unwavering support for Israel by invoking the country's right to self defence, with Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying in parliament that, "Israel’s security is part of Germany’s raison d’état."

'Careful consideration'

Germany is the second largest arms exporter to Israel, approving $354m worth of weapons exports in 2023, a tenfold increase compared to the previous year.

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On Friday, the UN Human Rights Council called for a suspension of arms sales to Israel, marking the first time the body has taken a position since war broke out on 7 October.

Uslar-Gleichen stressed that Germany only supplied weapons "on the basis of careful consideration which far exceeds the requirements of international law", adding that the supply of weapons and other military equipment to Israel was "subject to a continuous assessment of the situation on the ground".

“Germany’s action in this conflict is firmly anchored in international law,” she insisted.

Israeli forces have killed at least 33,360 Palestinians and wounded 75,993 others in Gaza since 7 October, the Palestinian health ministry said on Tuesday. The majority of those killed are women and children.

The new death toll comes after 153 people were killed and 6o wounded over the past 24 hours, the ministry added.

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