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ICJ will rule on Russian claim Ukraine committed genocide

By Stephanie van den Berg

President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Judge Joan Donoghue speaks as the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, rules on Russia's request to throw out the Ukraine genocide case in The Hague, Netherlands, February 2, 2024. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

The United Nations' highest court on Friday ruled that it will hear a case in which Kyiv has asked it to declare it did not commit genocide in eastern Ukraine, as Russia claimed as a pretext for attacking its smaller neighbour.

Ukraine brought the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court, days after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

On Friday, judges found the court had jurisdiction to hear just a small part of the original case. The judges threw out a request by Ukraine to rule on whether or not the Russian invasion violated the 1948 Genocide Convention.

Instead the panel of 16 judges said they will rule at a later stage on whether or not Ukraine committed genocide in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas of eastern Ukraine now occupied by Russia.

"It is important that the court will decide on the issue that Ukraine is not responsible for some mythical genocide which the Russian Federation falsely alleged that Ukraine has committed," Ukraine's representative Anton Korynevych told journalists at the ICJ.

He added that it was also important that the emergency order by the court in March 2022 -- that Russia immediately halt its military operations in Ukraine -- still stands.

While the court's rulings are final and legally binding, it has no way to enforce them and some states, like Russia, have ignored them.

In hearings in September last year, lawyers for Moscow urged judges to throw out the entire case, saying Kyiv's legal arguments were flawed and the court had no jurisdiction.

On Friday, the judges granted some of Russia's objections but allowed Ukraine's request for the court to rule that there was no "credible evidence that Ukraine is committing genocide in violation of the Genocide Convention" in eastern Ukraine.

It could take many months to hear the case on the merits.

Ukraine previously argued there was no risk of genocide in eastern Ukraine, where it had been fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014.

Ukraine won another small victory at the ICJ on Wednesday when the judges ruled Russia had violated U.N. treaties against the financing of terrorism and discrimination in a different case that dealt with incidents from 2014.

© 2024 Reuters. All rights reserved


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