Russia slams Ukraine at ICJ in ‘genocide’ case
The Manila Times
Americas And Emea
THE HAGUE, Netherlands: Moscow hit out at Kyiv at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday, as the two warring countries squared off in a legal case over Russia’s claim that “genocide” in eastern Ukraine was a pretext for last year’s invasion. Moscow’s representative, Gennady Kuzmin, said Ukraine’s case that Russia “abused” the United Nations Genocide Convention as a reason to launch its war against its neighbor on Feb. 24, 2022 “couldn’t be further from the truth.” When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, part of his reasoning was that pro-Russian people in eastern Ukraine had been “subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime.” Two days into the invasion, Ukraine filed a suit at the ICJ, “emphatically denying” this and arguing that Russia’s use of “genocide” as a pretext went against the 1948 UN Genocide Convention. Mere “statements” about genocide are not admissible under international law, including the Genocide Convention, Kuzmin contended. Sitting only meters from the Ukrainian delegation, Kuzmin said: “As to expressions of concerns regarding the threat of genocide, they were unsurprising considering the policies of Kyiv regime, which were firmly entrenched in the history, doctrines and practices of Nazism.” Ukraine’s legal position is “hopelessly flawed” and “at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence” of the court, he concluded. The case, being heard in the sumptuous Peace Palace in The Hague, western Netherlands, is over whether the top UN tribunal has the jurisdiction to order a halt to Russia’s invasion. Kuzmin urged the court to throw out the case, arguing that the UN Genocide Convention was about the “prevention and punishment” of genocide, neither of which apply to Ukraine’s case. “Ukraine is not accusing Russia of committing genocide. Ukraine is also not accusing Russia of failing to prevent or punish genocide,” he argued. “On the contrary, Ukraine insists no genocide has occurred. That alone should be enough to reject the case because ... if there was no genocide there cannot be a violation of the Genocide Convention,” Kuzmin added. In March 2022, the ICJ sided with Ukraine, ordering Russia to “immediately suspend” its offensive. But this judgment was a so-called preliminary ruling, pending a decision on whether the court is actually competent to rule on the content of the matter. The court’s decisions are binding, although it has no “police force” to enforce them. Russia says the ICJ does not have jurisdiction because Ukraine’s case falls outside the scope of the UN Genocide Convention. Monday’s hearing was the first time a Russian representative had addressed the court in this case, previously arguing that it had insufficient time to prepare arguments. Ukraine will issue its response on Tuesday. More than 30 other countries — all Western allies of Ukraine — will also have the chance to make statements in support of Kyiv from Wednesday. The ICJ dismissed a bid by the United States to join the case. The court, created after World War 2 to deal with disputes between UN memberstates when they cannot resolve matters themselves, could take months to decide whether it has jurisdiction. The ICJ is also dealing with a separate case filed by Ukraine alleging that Russia backed separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine for years before the invasion.