ICJ to Hear Ukraine's Case Denying Genocide Claims in Eastern Ukraine

  • 03 Feb 2024

On 2nd February, 2024, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided to proceed with Ukraine's case challenging Russia's assertion that Kyiv committed genocide in eastern Ukraine, serving as a pretext for the 2022 Russian invasion.

  • Ukraine brought the case to the ICJ shortly after the invasion, seeking a declaration that it did not commit genocide. The recent ruling by the ICJ addressed the jurisdiction of the court and outlined the specific aspects it will consider in the ongoing case.

Key Points

  • Background of the Case: Ukraine filed the case at the ICJ challenging Russia's claims of genocide, which Moscow used as justification for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
  • ICJ's Jurisdiction Decision: The ICJ judges determined that the court has jurisdiction to hear a limited part of Ukraine's case. However, the court rejected Ukraine's request to rule on whether the Russian invasion violated the 1948 Genocide Convention.
  • Focus on Donetsk and Luhansk: The panel of 16 judges announced that they will address, at a later stage, whether Ukraine committed genocide in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas of eastern Ukraine, which are now under Russian occupation.
  • Russia's Objections: During hearings in September the previous year, Moscow's lawyers argued for the dismissal of the entire case, citing flaws in Kyiv's legal arguments and challenging the court's jurisdiction.
  • ICJ's Decision on Objections: The judges granted some of Russia's objections while allowing Ukraine's request for the court to declare that there is no credible evidence of Ukraine committing genocide in eastern Ukraine.
  • Timeline for the Case: The ICJ's consideration of the merits of the case is expected to span several months before reaching a conclusion.
  • Previous ICJ Rulings: In March 2022, the ICJ issued emergency measures instructing Russia to immediately cease its military operations in Ukraine.
  • While the court's rulings are final and legally binding, enforcement mechanisms are lacking, and certain states, including Russia, have chosen to disregard them.
  • Victory for Ukraine: In a separate case, the ICJ ruled on 31st Jan that Russia violated UN treaties related to terrorism financing and discrimination, based on incidents from 2014. This decision marked a small victory for Ukraine in its legal battles against Russia.