Since March 7, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has been hearing the lawsuit of Ukraine against Russia in the case of accusations of the Ukrainian people genocide. Ukraine spelled out its demands, Russia, as expected, didn't show up. But the trial can take place without the participation of Moscow. The question is rather that the process will not be fast and one should not count on a lightning-fast solution. Typically, such courts last even decades. However, this is already a start.
has compiled an overview of what is happening in The Hague, what Kyiv wants, what the Kremlin replies, what Western media report about this topic, and what the opinions of our state representatives are about Ukraine's prospects in court and its security guarantees.
Ukraine's requirements: First—troops, then—reparations
Here are the requirements Ukraine, according to a member of the Ukrainian delegation Olena Zerkal, spelled out to Russia:
- The Russian Federation immediately ceases the hostilities started on February 24, 2022;
- The Russian Federation immediately ensures that any armed forces or irregular armed formations that it leads or influences do not foster "military operations" with the aim of "punishing Ukraine" and committing genocide;
- The Russian Federation refrains from any action that may aggravate or expand the conflict or make it more difficult to resolve;
- The Russian Federation refrains from any action that may escalate or expand the conflict or make it more difficult to resolve;
- The Russian Federation submits to the Court a report on the measures taken to comply with the order of the court one week after such an order, and then provides reports on a regular basis.
"The issue of reparations and compensation will definitely be the subject of the next hearings. The aggressor will definitely pay for everything," Zerkal stressed.
Officially, the delegation also includes:
- Anton Korynevych—Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea;
- Oksana Zolotareva—Director of the Department of International Law of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
- Marney Cheek—Attorney, Covington & Burling LLP, Co-chair of International Arbitration Practice;
- Jonathan Gimblett—Representative of the law firm Covington & Burling LLP;
- David Zayens (no information about his regalia—Ed. note);
- Jean-Marc Thouvenin—Professor Jean-Marc Thouvenin, University of Paris-Nanterre.
The UN as a legacy of Churchill and Roosevelt
As an argument, the delegates from Ukraine use the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Two fundamental principles, approved by the UN after the Second World War, must apply here. The core of this organization was founded by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during a meeting on the battleship Prince of Wales in Newfoundland on August 10, 1941. It, in addition to the unity of the allies against Nazism, promised all countries prosperity, security, and no hunger after the war.
Interestingly, the paragraph that laid the foundation for the UN was proposed by the then US Ambassador to the UK, John Winant, who was later not accepted into the organization. It ended tragically: after suffering a series of career and personal failures, the Ambassador shot himself in his own house in 1947. According to archival media, this upset Roosevelt so much that he retired from politics.
Nevertheless, the organization was established and tried to fulfill its goals, but the acts of aggression of the Russian Federation in recent years have shown that the meaning and role of the UN has been greatly weakened since the victory in World War II, given that the aggressor country can block the decision of the Security Council condemning its own aggression. However, the Court in The Hague can still decide on compensation and reparations for war crimes, although these processes are slow.
So, at the moment, Ukraine uses the following principles of the Convention as legal arguments:
- protection of sovereign countries from aggression;
- protection of people from gross violations of human rights, in particular, the committing genocide.
Those guilty of war crimes will be "looked for in every country"
According to Ukrainian lawyers and diplomats, Russia is manipulating international law and, in particular, the aforementioned Convention.
Ukrainian diplomacy continues to fight against the Russian invaders on all fronts, including the legal one. We are defending not only our freedom and independence, but the entire international legal order," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed before the hearing.
According to Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Russia refuses to comment on data on its casualties in the war against Ukraine.
Meanwhile, at the initiative of the prosecutors, the Court has already begun to collect and record all evidence of the crimes of the Russian Federation in Ukraine. The parliamentarian stressed the following:
War crimes have no statute of limitations. Therefore, both those who give criminal orders and those who fulfill them automatically become objects of persecution on the territory of any country that has ratified the Rome Statute.
The Russians’ seats are empty, the boycott is not commented
Meanwhile, Russia expectedly boycotted the March 7 hearings at the UN Supreme Court, Reuters reports.
Thus, the hearings began at the International Court of Justice without Russia's legal representation.
"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 an aggressive war against my country," Ambassador of Ukraine Anton Korynevych commented on the absence of invaders.
He called on Russia to "lay down their arms and present their evidence." The court, for its part, said that it regrets Russia's non-attendance. A hearing originally scheduled for March 8 for the Kremlin to present its position is expected to be canceled.
At the same time, there are precedents when the International Court of Justice delivered decisions without the participation of the present party that did not appear to represent its interests.
Countries usually, but not always, follow a legally binding court order. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in the Netherlands did not respond to journalists' request for comment on Moscow's boycott of the trial against it.
Putin washes his hands off: "There is no evidence" of genocide
Kremlin dictator Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, stated that Russia's "special military action" is needed "to protect people who have been subjected to abuse and genocide," that is, those whose native or only language is Russian, in eastern Ukraine, Reuters continues.
However, the leading Association of Genocide Scholars has supported the opinion of Ukraine and Western states that Russia is illegally using the term "genocide" to describe how Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are treated in eastern Ukraine.
"There is absolutely no evidence that there is genocide going on in Ukraine," Melanie O'Brien, president of international Association of Genocide Scholars, assured journalists.
Although Moscow has repeatedly denied attacks on civilians, according to the UN, the official death toll of Ukrainian civilians is 364, including more than 20 children, although officials state the real death toll is likely higher.
"Putin is lying, and Ukrainians—our citizens—are dying. Russia must be stopped, and the court must play its part in this," Anton Korynevych told the court, asking them to take emergency measures.
Russia’s collapse and large price for aha moment of the West
Georgiy Tuka, former Deputy Minister for the Temporarily Occupied Territories, criticized the West for the speed of insight into Putin's real intentions and the consideration of the case in The Hague.
"Let's be frank, the West's position has become significantly radicalized in relation to Russia. Seriously changed. But, unfortunately, we Ukrainians, like laboratory guinea-pigs, are paying a very high price for this Western insight," he stressed.
He called for raising a discussion in the world about changing the paradigm in relation to Moscow, to which qualified military personnel of the West react positively.
According to Tuka, it was the United States that in 1991 made every effort to preserve the state of Russia in its current form. They relied on the new state formation as a guarantee of control over weapons of mass destruction, but now it's time to talk about how to maintain this control in case of the Russian Federation collapse.
Regarding The Hague, the former Deputy Minister warned that this is a process that will last for years, it could be 10, or 20, or even 30 years.
"But the punishment will catch up with Russia sooner or later," he is sure.
How to help The Hague: everyone can join
Every caring Ukrainian can help collect evidence for The Hague. Previously, Karim Khan, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, asked to send all documentary evidence of war crimes to the email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- you can write in any language—a translation will be made for it.
- you can send photos, videos, documents, and eyewitness accounts.
The report must be about the following:
- killings of civilians by Russian invaders,
- inhumanly missile and bomb and artillery attacks on hospitals, schools, residential buildings and other civilian targets.
Instead of conclusion. So, the hearings have begun, Russia has not pulled its head out of the sand and continues to claim that it does not participate in the genocide, while Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are dying under bombardments and losing their homes as well. The Hague will not be able to reach a decision quickly, but there is enough evidence for Moscow to pay for years of aggression and genocide. The presence of Russia is not necessary for this.
Ukrainians can only hold the line and hope that the Kremlin will exhaust its forces or its attention will be diverted by internal problems that, according to Russian liberals, the same musician Andrey Makarevich, are already brewing. But this is also not a quick story. When asked by the Ukrainian media about whether those who "have a TV instead of a head" can open their eyes, he replied that one needs to wait until food and hunger problems begin in Russia due to sanctions.
Although about 10,000 people came out to protest on March 6 against the war in Ukraine (about 5,000 were arrested), on the scale of such a large country, this is a drop in the ocean. And this will not help the Ukrainians much. Therefore, Ukraine should focus on protecting its own independence and borders.