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ICJ Issues Preliminary Objections Judgment in Ukraine v. Russia

Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, February 6, 2024, 5:38 PM
The court determined that it would not rule on Ukraine’s claims that Russia’s invasion violated the Genocide Convention.

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On Feb. 2, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that it has jurisdiction over only certain aspects of Ukraine v. the Russian Federation, the case Ukraine brought against Russia in 2022 concerning allegations of genocide. 

In its ruling, the ICJ determined that there were two aspects to the dispute between Ukraine and Russia: 1) “Ukraine’s submission that no genocide attributable to it has been committed in the Donbas region” and 2) “Ukraine’s submission related to the compatibility of the Russian Federation’s actions with the [Genocide] Convention.” 

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the two countries have exchanged allegations of genocide. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justification for moving Russian troops into Ukraine was because of Ukraine’s alleged acts of genocide against Russian-speaking inhabitants of the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Ukraine, in turn, rejected these allegations before the UN’s High Court, arguing that Russia fabricated claims of genocide simply to justify its large-scale military invasion of the country. Further, Ukraine also alleged that Russia’s invasion violated the Genocide Convention. 

The ICJ ruled that it would consider Russia’s claims that Ukraine violated the Genocide Convention in the Donbas region. (This is the first aspect of the dispute.) The court determined that it would not, however, rule on Ukraine’s claims that Russia’s invasion violated the convention. (The second aspect of the dispute.)

In the ruling, ICJ President Joan E. Donoghue wrote, “In the present case, even if it were shown that the Russian Federation had invoked the Convention abusively (which is not established at this stage), it would not follow that it had violated its obligations under the Convention, and in particular that it had disregarded the obligations of prevention and punishment under Articles I and IV.”

You can read the court’s judgment here or below:

Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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