The hearing at the United Nations’ top court, into a legal bid by Kyiv to halt Moscow’s devastating invasion of Ukraine, was rebuffed by Russia.
A row of seats reserved for Russian lawyers at the International Court of Justice was empty Monday morning as the hearing opened, The Associated Press said.
The court’s president, American judge Joan E. Donoghue, said Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands informed judges that “his government did not intend to participate in the oral proceedings.” The hearing went ahead without the Russian delegation.
The International Court of Justice is opening two days of hearings at its headquarters, the Peace Palace, into Ukraine’s request for its judges to order Russia to halt its invasion. Ukraine is scheduled to present its arguments Monday morning and Russia has the opportunity to respond on Tuesday.
Ukraine has asked the court to order Russia to “immediately suspend the military operations” launched Feb. 24 “that have as their stated purpose and objective the prevention and punishment of a claimed genocide” in the separatist eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.
A decision is expected on the request within days, though that does not mean Russia would abide by any order the court might issue.
If the court were to order a halt to hostilities, “I think the chance of that happening is zero,” said Terry Gill, a professor of military law at the University of Amsterdam. He noted that if a nation does not abide by the court’s order, judges could seek action from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia holds a veto.
The request for so-called provisional measures is linked to a case Ukraine has filed based on the Genocide Convention. Both countries have ratified the 1948 treaty, which has a clause allowing nations to take disputes based on its provisions to the Hague-based court.
Kyiv argues that Moscow’s claims of genocide by Ukraine in Donetsk and Luhansk that President Vladimir Putin used as a pretext for his invasion are fabricated.
“Ukraine emphatically denies that any such genocide has occurred, and that the Russian Federation has any lawful basis to take action in and against Ukraine for the purpose of preventing and punishing genocide,” the country said in its claim to the court.
Ukraine’s nine-page legal filing launching the case argues that “Russia has turned the Genocide Convention on its head” by making a false claim. It adds that “Russia’s lie is all the more offensive, and ironic, because it appears that it is Russia planning acts of genocide in Ukraine.”
The success of Ukraine’s request will depend on whether the court accepts it has “prima facie jurisdiction” in the case, which is not a guarantee that the court ultimately would proceed with the suit. Cases at the International Court of Justice typically take years to complete.
Regardless of the outcome of the hearings Monday and Tuesday, they give Ukraine another platform to air grievances about Moscow’s invasion.
“It’s part of, I think, an overall diplomatic strategy to try to put maximum pressure on Russia,” said Gill.