Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Ukrainian legal representatives appeared before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) today, seeking an emergency order to halt Russian hostilities on its territory, arguing that Russia had falsely applied genocide law to justify its invasion of a sovereign country.
Russia sent no representatives, opting to boycott today’s hearing, at which Kiev seeks a ruling by the UN’s highest court that would classify Russia’s actions as genocide, while at the same time confirming that no genocide has taken place in Ukraine’s rebel-held territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, a claim Russia had cited as justification for its “special military operation”.
However, tomorrow Russian lawyers are expected to appear in the Court in order to argue that Russia is not committing genocide. If successful, this would mean that there is no case to answer, enabling them to claim that no court could thus have jurisdiction over a nonexistent crime.
Neither Russia nor the US have recognised the jurisdiction of the Court in general, accepting its jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis solely. As the ICJ requires both the plaintiff and defendant states to recognise its jurisdiction, the judges’ hands will likely be tied in this particular case.
Meantime, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have already launched an investigation into whether Russia’s President Vladimir Putin or other top figures in his government were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Since the ICC does not deal with states, but rather with individual defendants, it will have fewer jurisdictional problems over the matter. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are members of the ICC. Both have signed its statute but neither has ratified it in their respective parliaments. Previously, Ukraine had, however, formally accepted the court’s open-ended jurisdiction in 2015 for crimes committed on its territory, a move which grants ICC prosecutors the authority to now investigate possible war crimes in the country.