International Court Asserts Jurisdiction Over Ukraine's Genocide Claim Against Russia

The International Court of Justice grants jurisdiction to rule on Ukraine's request regarding genocide allegations, focusing on whether Kyiv violated the convention, while the legal battle against Russia's invasion continues with a final decision likely years away.


International Court of Justice

The United Nations' top court announced on Friday that it has jurisdiction to rule on Ukraine's request for a declaration that Kyiv is not responsible for genocide. However, the court clarified that it cannot rule on other aspects of Ukraine's case, specifically the issue of whether Russia's invasion violated the 1948 genocide convention.

Ukraine filed the case nearly two years ago, claiming that Moscow used trumped-up claims of genocide to justify its invasion. The court will now focus on determining whether Ukraine violated the convention, as asserted by Russian President Vladimir Putin to justify the invasion. A final decision on this matter is expected to take several years.


The court's President, Joan E. Donoghue, emphasized that even if Russia alleged Ukraine committed genocide in bad faith, it would not, by itself, constitute a violation of obligations under the genocide convention.

The court also stated that it lacks jurisdiction to rule on whether Russia's invasion violated the 1948 genocide convention or if Moscow's recognition of two breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine breached the convention.

Moscow had argued last year for the case to be dismissed, but the 16-judge panel will proceed with considering the merits of Kyiv's claims.

In September hearings, Moscow's legal team called Ukraine's case "hopelessly flawed," while Ukraine insisted the court has jurisdiction and criticized Russia for defying an interim order to halt its invasion.


The court had previously ordered Russia to stop military operations in Ukraine during the legal proceedings in March 2022. Ukraine's legal team characterized Russia's defiance as an attack on the court's authority.

This development comes amid ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, with the court's decision focusing on the legal aspects of the conflict. The court had also ruled on another case between the two countries regarding attacks in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and discrimination in annexed Crimea. The basis of Ukraine's case is the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Ukraine and Russia have ratified.

Recently, the Genocide Convention and the Hague-based court gained attention when South Africa filed a case accusing Israel of genocide in its military operation in Gaza following the October 7 Hamas attacks. In a preliminary ruling, the court ordered Israel to take measures to prevent death, destruction, and acts of genocide in Gaza, without addressing the merits of South Africa's case.