World Court to rule on jurisdiction in Russia-Ukraine genocide case

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FILE PHOTO: A general view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the day of the trial to hear a request for emergency measures by South Africa, who asked the court to order Israel to stop its military actions in Gaza and to desist from what South Africa says are genocidal acts committed against Palestinians during the war with Hamas in Gaza, in The Hague, Netherlands, January 11, 2024. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen© Thomson Reuters

By Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – The United Nations’ highest court will rule Friday if a case in which Ukraine has accused Russia of violating international law, by saying its invasion was launched to stop an alleged genocide, can move forward.

Ukraine brought the case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

While the case revolves around the 1948 Genocide Convention, Kyiv does not accuse Moscow of committing genocide in Ukraine. Instead, it says Russia violated the genocide treaty by justifying the invasion by saying it was needed to stop an alleged genocide of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

In hearings in September last year, lawyers for Moscow urged judges to throw out the case, saying Kyiv’s legal arguments were flawed and the court had no jurisdiction.

Ukraine argued there was no risk of genocide in eastern Ukraine, where it had been fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014.

Moscow has said Ukraine is using the case as a roundabout way to get a ruling on the overall legality of Russia’s military action.

More than two dozen European states, as well as Australia and Canada, have backed Kyiv by giving formal statements to the court, stressing they believe the case should move forward.

The court has already issued emergency measures in March 2022 in this case ordering Russia to immediately halt its military operations in Ukraine. While the court’s rulings are final and legally binding, it has no way to enforce them and some states, like Russia, have ignored their orders.

If the ICJ does decide the Ukraine-Russia genocide case can move forward, it could take many months before the court will hear the full case.

Earlier this week Ukraine had a small victory at the ICJ when the judges ruled Russia had violated U.N. treaties against the financing of terrorism and discrimination in a different case that dealt with incidents from 2014.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Editing by Charlotte Van Campenhout and Ros Russell)



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