Nicaragua to present International Court of Justice case against Germany over aid to Israel

Nicaragua alleges Germany ‘is facilitating the commission of genocide’ by continuing to support Israel militarily and by refusing to reverse its decision to stop funding Unrwa

The UN’s highest court is to hold two days of hearings this week at which the Central American state of Nicaragua will accuse Germany of facilitating genocide by providing military and financial support to Israel to fuel its campaign in Gaza – and by defunding the Palestinian refugee agency, Unrwa.

Along with the US, Germany is one of the largest arms exporters to Israel. However, it denies it’s in breach of the 1948 Genocide Convention and the 1949 Geneva conventions. A spokesman in Berlin said Nicaragua’s case was “unjustified” and it would answer the allegations in court.

In the background to the case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israel has repeatedly denied that its military campaign, sparked by the October 7th Hamas-led attack – in which some 1,200 people were killed and 240 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies – is genocidal in intent.

In a separate case in January, taken by South Africa against Israel, the ICJ ordered Israel to take “every possible measure” to avoid genocidal acts, and ordered Hamas to release all hostages immediately, but it held back from ordering a ceasefire.


While the court’s rulings are binding, it has no power to enforce them, and neither side has since complied with January’s emergency measures. In the meantime, the Palestinian death toll in Israel’s air and ground offensive is now more than 33,000, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Nicaragua bases its case against Germany on figures showing its arms exports to Israel last year were worth €326.5 million, a ten-fold increase on 2022, making up 28 per cent of Israel’s total military imports. This makes Germany “complicit” in Israel’s alleged war crimes, including genocide, it claims.

In addition, Germany was among big donors to Unrwa that suspended funding after Israeli allegations in January that 12 of its tens of thousands of Palestinian employees were suspected of involvement in the October 7th attacks. Some countries, such as Canada and Sweden, have resumed their funding while others, including Ireland, maintained or increased theirs.

According to papers lodged with the ICJ, Nicaragua wants the court to order emergency measures instructing Berlin to halt its military aid to Israel – and to reverse its decision to stop funding Unrwa, an agency that, it argues, provides “essential support to the civilian population”.

In the absence of such measures, it alleges: “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and is failing in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide.”

Berlin has been tight-lipped in response. “We note Nicaragua’s lawsuit and we deny the allegations as unjustified”, said government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner.

In Germany too, citizens with family members killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza have filed criminal complaints in the domestic courts accusing some senior politicians, including chancellor Olaf Scholz and foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, of “aiding and abetting war crimes and genocide”.

In international legal terms, Nicaragua versus Germany is in line with a trend towards “public interest” cases taken by states that are not directly affected by the alleged violations of international law that they raise.

Previous high-profile examples at the ICJ included South Africa versus Israel and, most notably, The Gambia versus Myanmar in 2019 in which Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in person to deny that the violent crackdown by the country’s military on its Rohingya population had any genocidal intent.

In the latest case, Nicaragua’s petition to the ICJ came just days after a panel of UN-appointed human rights experts issued a scathing report detailing the scale of “systematic” human rights abuses allegedly overseen by the government of President Daniel Ortega and his wife and deputy, Rosario.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court