June 6, 2023

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Russia does not attend UN court hearing on Ukrainian ‘genocide’

Russia does not attend UN court hearing on Ukrainian 'genocide'
  • Putin claims Ukraine genocide to justify military action
  • Scientists say there is no evidence of genocide
  • Ukrainian envoy urges Russia to present its case

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Ukraine on Monday sought an emergency order from the United Nations’ highest court to stop hostilities on its territory, arguing that Russia – which boycotted the hearing – falsely applied the law of genocide to justify its invasion. Read more

The hearing was held at the International Court of Justice without legal representation for Russia.

“The fact that Russia’s seats are empty speaks volumes. They are not here in this court: they are on a battlefield waging a war of aggression against my country,” said Ukrainian envoy Anton Korenevich.

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The court said it regretted Russia’s failure to attend. After Ukraine presented its arguments on Monday, the court said it would start deliberations and rule “as soon as possible”. Read more

States usually, but not always, follow legally binding court orders. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in the Netherlands did not respond to a request for comment.

After the hearing, Korenevich stressed that Russia’s absence would not affect the proceedings and that Moscow had to comply with court orders.

“They need to listen and they should listen to the court under international law,” he told reporters.

No evidence of genocide

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that “Russian special military action” is necessary “to protect the people who have been bullied and exterminated” – that is, those whose first or only language is Russian – in eastern Ukraine. Read more

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An overview of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Bleiver

Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in two breakaway regions in the country’s east since 2014, killing about 15,000 people, according to the government in Kyiv.

A leading association of genocide scholars has supported the view of Ukraine and Western powers that Russia has been misappropriating the term genocide to describe the treatment of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

“There is absolutely no evidence of genocide in Ukraine,” Melanie O’Brien, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, told Reuters.

The new Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the attack. The official UN civilian death toll is 406, including 27 children, although officials say the true number may be higher. Read more

The issue centers on the interpretation of the 1948 treaty on the prevention of genocide, signed by both countries. The treaty specified the International Court of Justice as a forum for resolving disputes between the signatories.

The legal team in Kyiv stressed on Monday that Moscow was violating the treaty and abusing it by using it as a justification for war.

Oksana Zolotaryova of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry told the court that the world was witnessing Russia killing civilians with indiscriminate attacks.

“We do not yet know the true number of Ukrainians killed by Russia in the past 11 days. We can only guess how many more people will be killed in the next 11 days if this foolish aggression does not stop,” she said. She asked the court to grant interim measures.

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The International Court of Justice is the highest court to resolve disputes between nations, and while cases there usually take years, it has a fast-track procedure to consider requests for “interim measures”, to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

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(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg) in The Hague; Additional reporting by Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Kevin Levy, Frank Jack Daniel and Alex Richardson

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.