World Court to Hear Ukraine’s Charges of Genocide Against Russia Next Week
The International Court of Justice has scheduled public hearings beginning Monday on Ukraine’s claims against Russia under the Genocide Convention, expediting proceedings in light of Moscow’s February invasion of its neighbor.
The world court, an arm of the United Nations, hears disputes between governments. A separate tribunal also based in The Hague, the International Criminal Court, can prosecute individuals for war crimes and this week its prosecutor announced an investigation into potential humanitarian-law violations in Ukraine.
In documents filed with the world court last week, Ukraine said Russia “has falsely claimed that acts of genocide have occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine, and on that basis recognized the so-called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’, and then declared and implemented a ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine.”
Ukraine called Russia’s claims “baseless and absurd.” Moscow’s “claimed objective to ‘de-nazify’ Ukraine is a transparent pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression,” Kyiv’s filing says.
Ukraine said it sought ICJ proceedings “to establish that Russia has no lawful basis to take action in and against Ukraine for the purpose of preventing and punishing any purported genocide.” Kyiv also accuses Russia of “planning acts of genocide in Ukraine” and of intentionally killing Ukrainian nationals.
Ukraine also asked the court to “order full reparation for all damage caused by the Russian Federation as a consequence of any actions taken on the basis of Russia’s false claim of genocide.”
Russia hadn’t filed a response on Wednesday.
The 1948 Genocide Convention, drafted after the Holocaust, makes unlawful certain actions intended “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The world court has authority to interpret the treaty, which has more than 150 signatories including Russia, Ukraine and the U.S.
Although member states agree to comply with ICJ rulings, the world court has no independent ability to enforce its decisions. States can ask the U.N. Security Council to take action against noncompliant parties; Russia, as a permanent member of the council, can veto any such proposals.
The U.S. welcomed the world court proceedings.
“The ICJ has a vital role to play in the peaceful settlement of disputes,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “Considering the gravity of the crisis in Ukraine that has resulted from Russia’s unprovoked invasion, we trust the court is taking into consideration the dire circumstances and rapidly unfolding events and hope that it will act with utmost urgency on Ukraine’s request for provisional measures.”
The world court has 15 judges; the current president, Joan Donoghue, is an American and former career lawyer at the State Department. Vice President Kirill Gevorgian is a former Russian diplomat.
The hearings, at the world court’s chambers at the Peace Palace in The Hague, will be livestreamed on the ICJ and UN Web TV websites. Ukraine is to make its case on Monday; Russia is scheduled to present its defense on Tuesday.
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