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Ukraine asks International Court of Justice to examine Russia’s ‘terrible lie’

Ukraine told the International Court of Justice on Tuesday that Russia, to justify its invasion in 2022, had invoked a “terrible lie” that it was trying to end an alleged genocide.

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The court began hearings Monday on its jurisdiction in the case, which Russia wants to dismiss, calling Ukraine’s arguments “hopelessly flawed.”

Ukraine took the case to the ICJ, the United Nations’ highest court also known as the World Court, days after the Russian invasion on February 24 last year, arguing that Russia had violated the Genocide Convention of 1948 when it justified its invasion by claiming it was trying to end the alleged genocide in eastern Ukraine.

“Russia is waging war against my country in the name of this terrible lie that Ukraine is committing genocide against its own people,” Ukrainian Representative Anton Korynevych told a panel of international judges on Tuesday.

“Can the state use false allegations of genocide as a pretext to destroy cities, bomb civilians and expel children from their homes? When the Genocide Convention is so cynically used, is this court powerless? The answer to these questions must be ‘no’.”

Ukraine says there was no risk of genocide in eastern Ukraine, where it has been fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014, and that the genocide treaty does not authorize an invasion for put an end to an alleged genocide.

Russia calls for dismissal

Russia asked the court to dismiss the case as hearings began Monday, saying Ukraine was using it as a way to get a ruling on the overall legality of Russian military action.

“Ukraine insists that no genocide took place,” Russian agent to the tribunal Gennady Kuzmin said in his opening speech.

“This alone should be enough to dismiss the case. Because according to the Court’s jurisprudence, if there was no genocide, there cannot be a violation of the Genocide Convention.”

Sienho Yee, another lawyer for Russia, said Russia’s justification for the invasion was not based on the Genocide Convention, but “on the right to self-determination and its inherent right to self-defense.”

Jurisdiction of the ICJ

The hearings, which are scheduled to run through September 27, will focus solely on the court’s jurisdiction over the case.

The ICJ hears disputes between nations, while the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, tries individuals for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

On Wednesday, the ICJ will hear from 32 Ukraine allies – including all European Union members except Hungary, as well as Canada and Australia – all of whom support the argument that the case should go forward.

The court rejected the United States’ request to argue on Ukraine’s behalf on a technicality.

It may take weeks or even months for the court to decide whether the case can move forward, and if it does, a final decision will take months or even years.

In an interim ruling issued in March last year, the court ruled in favor of Ukraine and ordered Russia to immediately end its military action in Ukraine.

Russia has so far ignored the order and the court has no way of enforcing its rulings, but observers say the order could impact compensation payments after the war.

(with press wires)


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