The United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) has determined it has jurisdiction to decide whether Ukraine violated the Genocide Convention in its case against Russia. However, it said it could not rule on other critical aspects of Ukraine’s allegations, including whether Russia’s invasion violated the convention or international law.
Ukraine filed the case days after Russia’s 2022 invasion, claiming Moscow falsely alleged genocide by Kyiv to justify its attack. However, the ICJ said that even if Russia acted in bad faith, it could not rule on the legality of the invasion itself under the genocide treaty.
“This would not in itself constitute a violation” of the convention by Russia, the court’s president said. The 16-judge panel also lacks jurisdiction over Russia’s recognition of breakaway Ukrainian regions.
Despite these setbacks, Ukraine hailed the ruling as a victory for allowing the case to proceed. The court will decide the crucial question of whether Ukraine committed “mythical genocide” against pro-Russian separatists, as Moscow has alleged to justify its actions.
The court already issued a preliminary order in March 2022 for Russia to immediately halt its attack on Ukraine. But Moscow openly defied the order, continuing its devastating assault on Ukrainian cities.
At hearings last September, Russia argued the case was hopelessly flawed and should be thrown out before considering the merits. Ukraine insisted the court has jurisdiction and condemned Russia’s defiance of its prior order.
“Every missile that Russia fires at our cities, it fires in defiance of this court,” Ukraine’s representative told judges.
While the ruling limits the scope, it allows Ukraine’s claims of Russian deception to proceed. The court’s final, legally binding decision could still be years away in the ongoing war. However, permitting the case to advance offers Kyiv a chance to refute Russia’s primary rationale for the invasion on the global stage.
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