Defense officials meet Zelensky in kyiv to discuss military support | ET REALITY


The headquarters of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, this month.Credit…Peter Dejong/Associated Press

Ukraine and Russia clashed repeatedly during hearings this week over whether the United Nations’ highest court has jurisdiction to hear a claim that Moscow abused the 1948 Genocide Convention to justify its invasion of Ukraine last year.

kyiv is asking the court to order Russia to stop its attacks, although Moscow is unlikely to comply.

Ukraine filed its complaint with the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the highest legal body of the United Nations, shortly after the invasion. The complaint said Russia had falsely accused the Ukrainian government of carrying out genocide against Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine and then used the accusation as a pretext to launch its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

During five days of hearings that ended Wednesday, Ukrainian delegates said there had been no acts of genocide against its citizens before the invasion and accused Russia of using disinformation and distorting the meaning of the Genocide Convention. They called on the court, which is mandated to address legal disputes between nations, to use its jurisdiction to help end the “illegal war.” International lawyers and diplomats attended the hearings.

It was Ukraine’s second attempt to seek help from the court. The court’s judges had already issued an order to Russia to stop its military action in March 2022. Moscow snubbed the court, refusing to attend those hearings and ignoring the court order.

This time Russia sent a large delegation. Some diplomats said Moscow’s presence reflected a perceived legal threat and political calculation as its diplomats campaigned to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council next month. The council expelled Russia last year after the invasion.

Addressing the 16-judge court in the case, Russia’s lawyers urged the court to dismiss the complaint. They said Ukraine’s arguments were “hopelessly flawed” and that Russia had based its actions in Ukraine not on genocide but on its right to self-defense, as defined by the United Nations Charter. There was no dispute about genocide, the Russian side said, so there was no case.

Russia’s arguments are not likely to prevail, international lawyers said, largely because of statements made by President Vladimir V. Putin and senior Russian officials.

For example, Ukraine’s lawyers repeatedly referred to a televised speech by Putin on February 24, 2022, the day of the invasion, in which he announced “a special military operation” in the eastern parts of Ukraine. The purpose of the military operation, Putin said, was “to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years.”

Russian lawyers dismissed Putin’s words as political speech, which they said was not the same as invoking the Genocide Convention.

Although the hearings revolved solely around jurisdiction, lawyers and diplomats considered them important because the outcome could affect the intentions of a group of countries to create a special international tribunal for Russian aggression and war crimes in Ukraine. Exceptionally, 32 governments submitted submissions that agreed with Ukraine’s argument. The group included most European Union countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

It can take several months or longer for judges to decide whether they can continue with the case.

Harold Koh, a law professor at Yale University who is part of Ukraine’s legal team, urged the judges to act quickly. “The jurisdictional issues before you are not closed or difficult,” he told the court. “And while they deliberate, the world awaits a quick hearing on the merits.”

Leave a Comment