European leaders call for Israel to respect International Court of Justice orders

EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell says ICJ orders are binding, and EU expects their ‘full, immediate and effective implementation’

European countries called on Israel to respect an order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday, a decision greeted as a major setback for Tel Aviv and politically awkward for leaders that had criticised South Africa’s case, including in Germany, Britain and France.

EU countries and institutions have been deeply divided over Israel’s response to the October 7th attacks on border communities by Hamas, with some feeling a moral obligation to support Israel while others are appalled by the large-scale killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israel Defense Forces.

In the wake of the ruling the EU’s chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, issued a short joint statement with the European Commission stating that ICJ orders were binding and the EU would expect their “full, immediate and effective implementation”.

“The EU reaffirms its continuing support to the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations,” the statement read.


In Germany, which threw its weight behind Israel as the case was heard by declaring that the accusation of genocide “has no basis whatsoever”, a government spokesperson said Berlin respected the court’s decision, and that a full ruling on the case should be awaited.

In Belgium and Spain, countries that have drawn the ire of Israel for their leaders’ criticism of the suffering inflicted on Palestinians, leaders issued statements calling for the court’s orders to be respected.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez welcomed the decision, and called for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel “so that both nations coexist in peace and security”.

The Belgian government, which had been divided internally over whether to declare support for South Africa’s case, issued a statement calling on Israel to “fully implement” the court’s order, and called for all parties in the conflict to agree an immediate ceasefire, as well as the release of hostages and access for humanitarian aid. “In all conflicts there are rules,” said foreign minister Hadja Lahbib. “International law must be respected.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said he “strongly” welcomed the court’s orders which he described as “measures that Ireland has been consistently calling for from the start of the conflict”.

“While the court has not called for a ceasefire, the court has ordered Israel and the IDF not to commit any acts of genocide, and importantly has ordered Israel to take immediate and effective measures to ensure urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance are provided in Gaza,” he said. “I reiterate the position of the Government that an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the immediate and unconditional release of hostages and full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access is needed in Gaza.”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald appealed for Ireland to join South Africa in its case.

The ruling was welcomed by NGOs. Human Rights Watch described it as a “landmark decision”, while Amnesty secretary general Agnes Callamard said it “sends a clear message that the world will not stand by in silence as Israel pursues a ruthless military campaign to decimate the population of the Gaza Strip and unleash death, horror and suffering against Palestinians on an unprecedented scale”.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong critic of Israel, welcomed the order as “valuable”, and said he would hope “that war crimes committed against innocent Palestinian civilians do not go unpunished”.

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Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times