World Court to hear Russian objections to Ukraine genocide case

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Russia and Ukraine will face off at the International Court of Justice on Monday in a case involving Moscow’s claims that its invasion of Ukraine was carried out to prevent genocide.

Ukraine brought the case to the United Nations’ highest court just days after the Russian invasion on February 24 last year. Kiev argues Russia is violating international law by claiming the invasion was justified to prevent an alleged genocide in eastern Ukraine.

Russian officials continue to accuse Ukraine of genocide.

Russia wants to dismiss the case and objects to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The hearings, scheduled to run through Sept. 27, will not focus on the merits of the case, but will instead focus on legal arguments about jurisdiction.

Moscow says Ukraine is using the case as a detour to make a decision on the overall legality of its military action.

Ukraine has already overcome one hurdle when the court ruled in its favor in a preliminary ruling in March last year. On this basis, the court ordered Russia to immediately stop military actions in Ukraine.

At the hearings, the court will also hear from 32 other states, all of which support Ukraine’s argument that the court has jurisdiction to move forward with the case.

“It looks pretty positive that the court feels it has jurisdiction,” said Juliette McIntyre, a lecturer in law at the University of South Australia and an observer at the International Court of Justice.

While Russia has so far ignored International Court of Justice orders to halt its military actions and the court has no way of enforcing its decisions, experts say an eventual ruling in Ukraine’s favor could be important for future reparations claims.

“If the court finds that there is no lawful justification for Russia’s actions under the Genocide Convention, the decision may give rise to a future claim for damages,” McIntyre said.

The 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as crimes committed “with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such.”

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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