THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — A recording-breaking number of countries appeared before the U.N.’s top court on Wednesday to express their support for Ukraine in a case against Russia over the ongoing conflict.
Kyiv claims that Moscow’s false accusations of genocide as a pretext for the full-scale invasion in 2022 are illegal under the 1948 Genocide Convention but Russia claims the International Court of Justice does not have jurisdiction to decide.
The treaty allows the other signatories to participate in the proceedings and 32 countries ranging from Germany to New Zealand universally argue that the court does have jurisdiction. Lawyers spent the day encouraging The Hague-based court to move the case forward.
“Germany has an interest in upholding the Genocide Convention … not least in view of our own past,” lawyer Wiebke Rückert told the 16-judge panel. The post-war treaty was the first to outlaw genocide and was created in direct response to the Holocaust.
Other participants also cited their history as motivation for participating. Lawyer for Lithuania Gabija Grigaite-Daugirde noted that her country participated in several international proceedings before it was annexed by the Soviet Union.
Malta and Cyprus cited their small size as justification. “As a small state ... Cyprus relies on the international legal order,” lawyer Mary-Ann Stavrinides said on behalf of her country.
Speaking to the media after the hearing, the representative from the United Kingdom stressed the importance of upholding international law. “I’m proud to be here today,” Victoria Prentis told reporters.
Her country, however, has yet to implement a 2019 ruling from the court and return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. The U.K. and United States evicted some 1,500 inhabitants from the Indian Ocean islands in 1967 to make way for a joint military base. Britain kept the archipelago during negotiations that led to the independence of Mauritius.
The court has no enforcement mechanism. In March 2022, the court ordered Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine as part of a request for provisional measures in the case. More than 18 months later, the bloody conflict continues.
Ukraine is not arguing in these proceedings that Russia is committing genocide. Rather it is making a novel legal argument that Moscow’s allegations that Kyiv is committing genocide against Russian-speaking peoples in the country violates the genocide convention.
Lawyers for Ukraine quoted extensively from Russian President Vladimir Putin during their opening arguments on Tuesday.
“Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years,” Putin said in a televised address in February 2022, explaining what he called a “special military operation.”
“Russia is waging war against my country because of this terrible lie,” Anton Korynevych, the Ukrainian ambassador to the Netherlands, told the court in his opening remarks.
In its arguments on the first day of hearings, Russia claimed Ukraine had failed to properly inform its warring neighbor that the pair had a dispute, as required by the convention. According to Moscow, the court does not have jurisdiction.
The pair will return next week for final statements from Russia.Follow @mollyquell
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