Ukraine says U.N. top court has jurisdiction to hear case against Russia

September 19, 2023

A legal team representing Ukraine argued Tuesday that the United Nations’ top court in The Hague—the International Court of Justice—has jurisdiction to hear a case alleging genocide by Russia.

Lead attorney for Ukraine Anton Korynevych asserted that Moscow abused the genocide convention to justify launching its invasion in February 2022. 

“Russia’s defiance is also an attack on this court’s authority. Every missile that Russia fires at our cities, it fires in defiance of this court,” Korynevych told a 16-judge panel at the U.N. court.

Kyiv wants the judges to order Russia to halt attacks and pay reparations, though it’s unlikely Moscow would comply. Russia has virtually ignored an order by the International Court of Justice back in March to “immediately suspend” military operations in Ukraine.

Russia outlined its objections to Ukraine’s case on Monday, with lead Moscow attorney Gennady Kuzmin, calling it “hopelessly flawed and at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence of this court.”

Kyiv initially filed its case just days after the invasion, asserting at that time that Russia was planning genocide.

In the months since, Ukrainians have accused Russia of indeed committing genocide in cities like Mariupol, where mass graves have been uncovered.

Additionally, the U.N. has accused Russia of triggering in Ukraine “the most massive violations of human rights” in the world today, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been charged with war crimes, of which his close ally Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been accused of aiding and abetting. Further, the U.S. has thrown its support behind the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

Ukraine’s case is based on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Kyiv and Moscow have ratified. 

Korynevych argued before the International Court of Justice on Monday that even as Russia was committing genocide in Ukraine, it was accusing Kyiv of doing so against its own people.

“This lie is Russia’s pretext for aggression and conquest. Russia has presented no credible evidence. It cannot. In reality, Russia has turned the Genocide Convention on its head,” Korynevych asserted. 

In a show of solidarity 32 allies of Ukraine are set to make statements in support of Kyiv’s assertions on Wednesday.

PHOTO: Peace Palace housing the International Court of Justice in The Hague

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