Russia demands Ukrainian genocide case be dismissed by UN top court

Ukraine’s legal battle against Russia over violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention resumed on Monday, with the opposing counsel demanding the case be thrown out of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The leader of Moscow’s legal team at the ICJ, Gennady Kuzmin, told the 16-judge panel that Kyiv’s case, which seeks to halt the invasion, “is, hopelessly flawed and at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence of this court.”

He added that the plaintiff’s filing is “a manifest disregard of the proper administration of justice and constitutes an abuse of process.”

Kyiv’s case, filed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, argues that the 2022 attack was based on false claims of acts of genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the eastern part of the country and alleges that Moscow was planning genocidal acts in the war-torn nation.

However, opposing lawyers insist that the ICJ does not have jurisdiction and that the genocide convention cannot be used to regulate the use of force by nations. 

Ukraine’s legal team is set to respond on Tuesday and is expected to urge judges to press ahead to hearings on the substance of its claims.

International Court of Justice: Ukraine and Russia’s legal battlefield

Ukraine brought the case to the Hague-located court based on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Moscow and Kyiv have ratified.

In an interim ruling in March 2022, the court ordered Russia to halt hostilities in Ukraine, a legally binding decision that Moscow has flouted as it presses ahead with its devastating attacks across the neighbouring nation.

In an unprecedented show of international support for Kyiv, 32 of Ukraine’s allies including Canada, Australia and every European Union member nation except Hungary will also make statements Wednesday in support of Kyiv’s legal arguments. The United States asked to make legal arguments on Ukraine’s behalf, but the UN court’s judges rejected the US request on a technicality.

The court’s panel of international judges will likely take weeks or months to determine whether the case can proceed. If it does, a final ruling is likely years away.

The International Court of Justice hears disputes between nations over matters of law, unlike the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals criminally responsible for offences including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICC has issued a war crimes arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for the abduction of Ukrainian children.

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