By Chloe Clifford, Staff Writer
On February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military invasion into Ukraine. The President of the Russian Federation stated that “horror and genocide” being suffered by Donbas communities by the Ukrainian government was the reason to “take a long overdue decision and to immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic.” Given their claim that Ukraine is committing acts of genocide, Russia believes that their military actions in Ukraine are justified under the Geneva Convention.
Ukraine has decided to use the legal system in an attempt to stop Russia’s invasion. On February 26, 2022, Ukraine filed an Application Instituting Proceedings in the International Court of Justice. In their filing, Ukraine emphatically denied all allegations of genocide, going so far as to cite a recent OHCHR (the UN Human Rights Investigative Office) report which found no evidence of human rights violations occurring in Ukraine. Ukraine further described the harm suffered by Ukrainians as the result of Russia’s invasion, accusing Russia of attempting to commit acts of genocide against Ukraine. Ukraine urged the court to hold proceedings as the earliest possible opportunity and to issue rulings in favor of Ukraine on the six reliefs sought. Ukraine’s reliefs sought include the following:
- a declaration that no acts of genocide have been committed in Ukraine
- a declaration that Russia has no right to take a military action against Ukraine under the Geneva Convention
- a declaration that Russia’s recognition of the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukraine has no basis under the Geneva Convention
- a declaration that Russia’s “military operation” was based on false claims of genocide and thus has no basis
- an order requiring the Russian Federation to provide assurances of non-repetition, that it will not take any unlawful measures in or against Ukraine on the basis of the false genocide claims
- an order requiring Russia to pay full reparation for all damages caused as the result of Russia’s military actions.
The International Court of Justice held a hearing devoted to Ukraine’s request for provisional measures on Monday, March 7, 2022. The Russian Federation declined the International Court of Justice’s invitation to participate in the hearings. The Russian Federation stated that their reasons for not participating included them not having enough time to formulate a response, the Court not being competent, and the Court lacking jurisdiction. They further explained that they did not believe that the mention of “genocide” invoked the Geneva Convention and thus they were not acting under the Convention or bound by it.
The International Court of Justice issued its Order on the Request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Ukraine on March 16, 2022. The Court issued its order with 13-2 votes ordering Russia to do the following actions: (1) immediately suspend its military operation in Ukraine and (2) ensure that no military, armed units, organization or person’s who are subject to Russia’s direction take any further actions in the military operation.
Further, they unanimously voted to order both Parties to refrain from any action that would escalate the dispute or make the resolution of the dispute more difficult.
This decision is binding under the United Nations, and if Russia chooses to disobey the order it could further isolate them. Since the United Nations does not have a police force, it would be difficult to force their compliance with the order. While Russia cannot be forced to comply with the order, it’s disregard for international law will cause Russia reputational harm and legitimize Ukraine as a state who is trying to settle the conflict peacefully and through appropriate legal channels.