Russia boycotts UN court hearing on Ukraine invasion
AFP – Russia did not attend a hearing Monday at the UN’s top court where Ukraine asked for an immediate halt to Moscow’s invasion.
The no-show was criticised by the head of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and by Ukraine which said the empty Russian seats “speak loudly”.
Kyiv filed the case shortly after Vladimir Putin’s February 24 invasion, accusing Russia of illegally justifying its war by falsely alleging genocide in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
The court set two days for urgent hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague but Russian ambassador Alexander Shulgin wrote to the court and “indicated that his government did not intend to participate”.
“The court regrets the non-appearance of the Russian Federation in these oral proceedings,” ICJ President Joan Donoghue said.
Ukraine wants the court to take provisional measures ordering Russia to “immediately suspend the military operations”, pending a full judgment in the dispute that could take years.
“The fact that Russia’s seats are empty speaks loudly. They are not here in this court of law, they are on a battlefield, waging aggressive war against my country,” Ukraine’s representative Anton Korynevych told the court.
“This is how Russia solves disputes.”
Korynevych added that the court “has a responsibility to act.”
“Russia must be stopped, and the court has a role to play in stopping that,” he said.
Russia had been scheduled to give its reply on Tuesday.
– ‘Absurd lie’ –
The ICJ was set up after World War II to rule on disputes between UN member states, based mainly on treaties and conventions.
Its rulings are binding but it has no real means to enforce them.
This case hinges on the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide, to which both Ukraine and Russia are parties.
The ICJ was already dealing with a dispute between the two countries dating back to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Moscow rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Ukraine says Russia has now wrongly invoked the genocide convention with an “absurd lie” about genocide of Russian-speakers in Lugansk and Donetsk.
“Russia’s lie is all the more offensive, and ironic, because it appears that it is Russia planning acts of genocide in Ukraine,” it said in its court filing.
Experts said Ukraine’s effort to drag Russia to the world court over the invasion could have symbolic value, though it was unclear if Moscow would heed any order.
“It remains to be seen what will happen at the provisional measures stage but my bet is that the court will find that it has prima facie jurisdiction,” Cecily Rose, assistant public law professor at Leiden University, told AFP.
“Not that Russia is likely to comply but still — rhetorically and symbolically there is some power to this,” added international public law professor Marko Milanovic, writing in the European Journal of International Law.
The case is separate to a Ukraine war crimes investigation launched by the International Criminal Court (ICC), a different tribunal also based in The Hague.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan on Wednesday announced he was going ahead with an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine since Moscow’s invasion.