December 10, 2023

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – More than a dozen European states, as well as Australia and Canada, on Wednesday asked the World Court to decide it has jurisdiction in a case brought by Kyiv alleging that Russia abused the Genocide Convention to provide a pretext for the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine brought the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest U.N. court for disputes between states, days after Russia launched a full scale war on its smaller neighbour on Feb. 24 last year.

Germany told judges the countries “strongly believe” the court has jurisdiction. German representative Wiebke Ruckert said her country had a strong interest in how the genocide treaty was interpreted “not least in view of our past”.

Kyiv argues that Russia is abusing the 1948 U.N. Genocide Convention, adopted in the aftermath of World War Two, by saying the invasion was justified to stop an alleged genocide in eastern Ukraine.

Some 150 states have signed the Convention and as such have an interest in how it should be interpreted by the court. An unprecedented number of states have intervened in this ICJ case, in a strong show of support for Kyiv.

Russia asked the court on Monday to throw out the case, claiming Kyiv’s legal arguments were “hopelessly flawed” and that Moscow had not actually invoked the genocide treaty when it used the term genocide.

Some 32 states will address the court, all in support of Ukraine, which wants the court to go on and hear the case on merit and find that Russia must pay reparations.

Ukraine says there was no risk of genocide in eastern Ukraine, where it had been fighting Russian-backed forces since 2014. The convention defines genocide as crimes committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg; Editing by Anthony Deutsch, Alexandra Hudson)

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