In Ukraine’s war diary, the date Wednesday, September 20 seems sadly ordinary. Ukrainian forces shot down a handful of Russian drones. Three villages were bombed. But while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke for the first time before the United Nations Security Council in New York, thirty-two countries in The Hague argued alongside the Ukrainian side before the Court International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Russia.
For this session, which opened on September 18, it is not yet a question of the substance of the story. Lawyers debate the jurisdiction of the UN’s highest court, responsible for settling disputes between states. Moscow is in fact asking the fifteen judges to reject the complaint filed by Kiev a few hours after the invasion of February 24, 2022, in which Ukraine accuses Russia, not of having committed genocide, but of having abused the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide to be able to justify its war. Under international law, war is not per se illegal if it is launched for acceptable reasons, such as self-defense. Otherwise, it is a crime, an aggression by one State against another.
A supposed genocide
In February 2022, a few hours before the entry of Russian tanks into Ukraine, Vladimir Putin thus justified his “special military operation” out of concern to put an end to an alleged genocide underway in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, instigated by Ukrainian forces against the pro-Russian population. A ” abuse “ denounced by kyiv.
Nineteen months and one complaint later, Russia’s lawyers essentially assure that the word “genocide”, brandished by Vladimir Putin, was nothing more than simple rhetoric. According to Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin, representing the Russian Foreign Ministry, Moscow acted in self-defense, as provided for in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, and not under the Genocide Convention.
Lies, replied Anton Korynevych, Ukraine’s ambassador on international justice. “For nine years [depuis le début de la guerre dans le Donbass en 2014]we endured lies about genocide from the highest levels of the Russian government, he asserted. And for a year and a half, we have suffered terrible attacks because of these lies. Today, Ukraine simply requests to be heard before the Court so that it can resolve this dispute. » The lawyer, originally from Crimea, also denounced ” the defiance ” of Moscow towards the Court. In March 2022, judges ordered Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. “Even today, Russia is raining missiles on our cities and our populations, always in the name of preventing an alleged genocide,” underlined Mr. Korynevych.
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