Aharon Barak resigns as Israeli ad hoc judge at ICJ for ‘personal reasons’

No replacement for Barak is immediately announced and officials tell media that Israel may not appoint a new representative to the World Court as it hears genocide case

Retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak sworn in as Israel’s appointee to the bench at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, January 11, 2024. (ICJ)
Retired Supreme Court President Aharon Barak sworn in as Israel’s appointee to the bench at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, January 11, 2024. (ICJ)

Retired High Court of Justice President Aharon Barak resigned from his role as an ad hoc judge on behalf of Israel at the International Court of Justice on Wednesday night, citing personal reasons.

Barak was a member of the 15-judge panel at the top UN court hearing of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing genocide in Gaza.

In a letter submitted to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Barak said his resignation stemmed from “personal family reasons.”

“Thank you for the trust you placed in me,” he wrote.

Under the ICJ’s rules, a state that does not have a judge of its nationality already on the bench can choose an ad hoc judge to sit in their case. It was not immediately clear whom Israel might appoint to replace Barak.

Unnamed officials in Israel’s legal system told the Ynet news site on Wednesday night that Israel was unsure whether it would appoint a new judge to replace Barak and that discussions on the matter would be held over the weekend.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) holds a hearing on South Africa’s request that the court order Israel to halt its military operation in Gaza, May 24, 2024. (Nick Gammon/AFP)

In a statement thanking Barak for his service at The Hague, President Isaac Herzog said that Israel would “continue to stand steadfast against the evil, hypocrisy and libels cast against the State of Israel and IDF (Israel Defense Forces).”

In the five months he served as an ad hoc judge, Barak voiced dissenting opinions on the panel in four rulings the court made against Israel this year.

Most recently, he was among four judges who argued that the ICJ’s ruling last month ordering Israel to cease operations in Rafah that could cause destruction to civilians was not an order to stop all military operations in the southern area of the Gaza Strip, but halt activity “only in so far as is necessary to comply with Israel’s obligations under the Genocide Convention.” He was one of the two judges who dissented from the 13-2 ruling.

South Africa has made four appeals to the ICJ since December accusing Israel of genocide and requesting the court issue an order for Israel to stop its war with Hamas in Gaza.

So far, the court has refrained from issuing orders for Israel to end the war but has instructed the country to do everything in its power to reduce civilian casualties.

South Africa says that Israel is acting in contravention of the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, claims strongly denied by Israel.

The war in Gaza broke out on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 251 hostages.

In response, Israel launched a military campaign in the Gaza Strip with the proclaimed objectives of dismantling Hamas and getting the hostages back.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 36,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified as it does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle.

Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7. The army also says 294 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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