With its suit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for allegedly violating the 1948 UN Genocide Convention through its actions in Gaza, the South African government is challenging the Western-dominated international order.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has long been accused by African countries of persecuting Africans in particular. And the presence of double standards in the US and Europe is indeed undeniable. Either you condemn the bombing of civilians and imminent ethnic cleansing – no matter whether in Ukraine, Syria or Gaza – or you do not.

But does that not apply to South Africa too?

When Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir came to Johannesburg in 2015 for an African Union summit, South Africa refused to arrest him and hand him over to the ICC. Despite the fact it was obliged to do so as an ICC member since the Court had indicted al-Bashir for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.


After Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with the manifest genocidal intention of wiping the sovereign nation and its culture off the map, South Africa abstained from voting during UN resolutions condemning the invasion and annexations of Ukrainian territories. Despite the fact that Russia’s actions were in violation of the UN charter, including the principle of sovereignty.

South Africa’s abstention was also despite the staggering number of Russian war crimes, including destruction of cities (urbicide) according to the Genghis Khan method, bombing of civilian targets killing thousands and displacing millions, shelling of evacuation routes, arbitrary executions (even though Russia itself does not even have the death penalty), rapes, torture, deportations, child robberies and more. Through Russia’s campaign, many Ukrainian settlements have been virtually wiped out.

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The international community must see through the crocodile tears and hold Hamas – from its leaders to its henchmen and murderous – accountable for unspeakable acts of terror.

None of these acts, along with the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports which resulted in a global rise in food prices that took African countries to the brink of famine, changed South African voting patterns.


As Russian President Vladmir Putin himself stated, he seeks to restore the tsarist empire established in the 15th century through conquests and colonial subjugation of non-Russian peoples. However, at a ceremony in September 2022 to mark the “annexation” of four Ukrainian regions, Putin justified it by recalling the slave trade and colonial plunder of Africa and presenting himself as a leader of the global anti-colonial struggle against the West.

Meanwhile, in Sudan, the Central African Republic and Mali, among others, Yevgeny Prigozhin's Wagner group was embroiled in serious human rights violations and neocolonial exploitations that financed the imperialist Russian war machine in Ukraine.

Yet South Africa did not even flinch from holding joint naval drills with Russia and China (the latter accused by several countries and organizations of genocide against the Uyghurs) in February 2023 – one year following the Russian invasion. The foundation of late South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu blasted these actions as “disgraceful” and “amounting to joining the war on Ukraine.”


Has South Africa forgotten that the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine also supported the African anti-colonial struggle and even trained African National Congress (ANC) fighters? 

Olexiy Haran, professor of political science at the National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, recalled that African diplomats once associated Ukraine with anti-colonial and anti-apartheid resolutions. Indeed, not the USSR, but Ukraine, was a member of the UN Special Commission against Apartheid, in which Ukrainian Hennadii Udovenko served as vice chairman between 1985 and 1992.

“We have obligations to the Genocide Convention” stated South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to the BBC. Does that obligation not apply with respect to Russian and Chinese practices?

The conclusion cannot be anything other than that the indictment of Israel demonstrates that South Africa employs double standards too.

The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of Kyiv Post.

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