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

Ukraine © Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters
© Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

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

The court began hearings on Monday on its jurisdiction in the case, which Russia wants thrown out, calling Ukraine's arguments "hopelessly flawed".

Ukraine brought the case before the ICJ, the United Nations' highest court also known as the World Court, days after Russia invaded on 24 February of last year, arguing that Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention when it justified its invasion by saying it was trying to stop 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," Ukraine's representative Anton Korynevych told the panel of international judges on Tuesday.

"Can state use false allegations of genocide as a pretext to destroy cities, bomb civilians and deport children from their homes? When the Genocide Convention is so cynically abused, 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 had been fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014, and that the genocide treaty does not allow an invasion to stop an alleged genocide.

Russia calls for dismissal

Russia asked the court to throw out the case at the start of the hearings on Monday, saying that Ukraine was using it as a way to get a ruling on the overall legality of Russia's military action.

"Ukraine insists no genocide has occurred," Russia's agent to the court, Gennady Kuzmin, said in opening remarks.

"That alone should be enough to reject 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 of the invasion was not based on the genocide convention, but “on the right to self-determination and its inherent right to self-defense.”

ICJ's jurisdiction
The hearings, which are set to run through 27 September, are only about 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, ICJ will hear from 32 of Ukraine's allies - including Every European Union member except Hungary, plus Canada and Australia – who all support the argument that the case should proceed.

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

It could take weeks or months for the court to decide whether the case can move forward, and if it does, a final ruling would take months or years.

In an interim ruling in the case in March of last year, the court decided in Ukraine's favour, and ordered Russia to halt military action in Ukraine immediately.

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

(with newswires)

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