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Ukraine’s genocide case against Russia ‘an abuse of process’, UN court told

Judges at the International Court of Justice in The Hague are considering whether Moscow was planning genocidal acts in Ukraine.

World Court Ukraine Russia

Russia has called a Ukrainian case alleging that Moscow abused the Genocide Convention to justify its invasion last year an “abuse of process” as lawyers for Moscow asked judges at the United Nation’s highest court to throw it out.

The leader of Moscow’s legal team at the International Court of Justice, Gennady Kuzmin, told the 16-judge panel that Ukraine’s case that seeks to halt the invasion “is hopelessly flawed and at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence of this court”.

He said Ukraine’s filing is “a manifest disregard of the proper administration of justice and constitutes an abuse of process”.

Kyiv’s case filed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine argues that the attack was based on false claims of acts of genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine and alleges that Moscow was planning genocidal acts in Ukraine.

World Court Ukraine Russia
Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin, centre right, and Russia’s Gennady Kuzmin, ambassador-at-large of the Russian Foreign Ministry, sit in the courtroom (Peter Dejong/AP)

Ukraine claimed that “Russia has turned the Genocide Convention on its head — making a false claim of genocide as a basis for actions on its part that constitute grave violations of the human rights of millions of people across Ukraine”.

Lawyers for Russia insist that the court does not have jurisdiction and that the Genocide Convention cannot be used to regulate use of force by nations. Ukraine’s legal team will respond on Tuesday and urge judges to press ahead to hearings on the substance of its claims.

In his opening speech, Mr Kuzmin echoed Russian claims about what he called “neo-Nazis” in Kyiv and drew parallels between Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the 1999 Nato airstrikes on Serbia aimed at halting Belgrade’s military campaign in Kosovo.

Ukraine brought the case to the Hague-based court based on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Moscow and Kyiv have ratified.

In an interim ruling in March 2022, the court ordered Russia to halt hostilities in Ukraine, a binding legal ruling that Moscow has flouted as it presses ahead with its devastating attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities.

(PA Graphics)

In an unprecedented show of international support for Kyiv, 32 of Ukraine’s allies including Canada, Australia and every European Union member nation except Hungary will also make statements on Wednesday in support of Kyiv’s legal arguments.

The United States asked to make legal arguments on Ukraine’s behalf but the UN court’s judges rejected the US request on a technicality.

The court’s panel of international judges will likely take weeks or months to reach a decision on whether or not the case can proceed. If it does, a final ruling is likely years away.

The International Court of Justice hears disputes between nations over matters of law, unlike the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals criminally responsible for offences including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICC has issued a war crimes arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for the abduction of Ukrainian children.

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