AMSTERDAM: Ukraine has filed a suit against Russia at the highest UN court in The Hague for disputes between states, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, citing erroneous allegations of genocide against Kyiv.
It was unclear on precisely what grounds the case was being brought to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). A court official could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Ukraine has submitted its application against Russia to the ICJ,” Zelensky said on Twitter. “Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression. We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now.”
Zelensky’s comment suggests that Ukraine plans to invoke the 1948 Genocide Convention in a case against Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asserted that Ukraine committed genocide in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine and said the invasion was therefore justified to end it.
Moscow has provided no proof of the allegation, which has been dismissed as “ridiculous” by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“Russia seems to have invoked ending genocide as a formal legal rationale for violating Ukraine’s sovereignty,” said international law expert Kevin Heller. “That seems like a dispute over the interpretation or application of the Convention.”
The court does not have automatic jurisdiction in cases involving the two nations and Kyiv would have to base its claim on a U.N. treaty in order to give the court authority to hear the matter.
Ukraine has in the past sought to involve another court in The Hague, the International Criminal Court (ICC), which handles war crimes.
Following the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and subsequent fighting in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government forces, Kyiv accepted ICC jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed on its territory since February 2014.
In December 2020, the office of the prosecutor announced it had reason to believe war crimes and other crimes were committed during the conflict. A formal request to open a full investigation has not been filed with judges, but ICC prosecutor Karim Khan on Friday expressed his concern over the Russian invasion and said the court may investigate alleged crimes arising from the current situation.