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Top UN Court Sets Jurisdiction Over Ukraine’s Genocide Lawsuit

Kyiv, Ukraine. Oleksandr Ratushniak, UNDP Ukraine / flickr

The United Nations' top court said Friday it has jurisdiction over Ukraine’s lawsuit against Russia on allegations of falsely using the Genocide Convention to justify its invasion.

Kyiv has accused President Vladimir Putin of misapplying the United Nations' 1948 Genocide Convention to launch the “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin said part of his reasoning for invading Ukraine was that Kyiv had “subjected to bullying and genocide” the pro-Russian people of eastern Ukraine.

The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday rejected all of Russia’s six preliminary objections to the Ukrainian lawsuit.

The ICJ is a United Nations organ created after World War II to deal with disputes between UN member states when they cannot resolve matters themselves.

In March 2022, the ICJ ordered Russia to “immediately suspend” its military action in a preliminary ruling pending Friday’s decision that the court is actually competent to rule on the matter. 

Russia says the ICJ has no jurisdiction because Ukraine’s case falls outside the scope of the UN Genocide Convention.

Some 32 Western allies of Ukraine made statements in support of Kyiv. The ICJ had dismissed a bid by the United States to join the case.

The ICJ ruled Wednesday as part of a separate lawsuit that Russia violated parts of a UN anti-terror treaty. It declined to rule on Kyiv’s claims that Moscow shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), also headquartered at The Hague but not affiliated with the UN, last March issued an arrest warrant against Putin on war crimes charges. 

The Kremlin dismissed the ICC warrant because Russia is not a signatory of the Rome Statute.

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