Russia does not attend UN court hearings on Ukrainian ‘genocide’

An overview of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Bleiver

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  • Putin claims Ukraine genocide to justify military action
  • Scientists say there is no evidence of genocide
  • Ukrainian envoy urges Russia to present its case

THE HAGUE (Reuters) – Russia boycotted hearings at the United Nations’ highest court on Monday during which Ukraine is seeking an emergency order to stop hostilities, arguing that Moscow falsely applied the law of genocide to justify its invasion. Read more

Hearings at the International Court of Justice began without legal representation for Russia.

“The fact that Russia’s seats are empty speaks volumes. They are not here in this court: they are on a battlefield waging a war of aggression against my country,” said Ukrainian envoy Anton Korenevich.

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He urged Russia to “lay down arms and give your testimony”.

The court said it regretted Russia’s failure to attend. A hearing initially scheduled for Tuesday for Russia to present its case is expected to be cancelled. In previous cases before the International Court of Justice, where one party did not appear to present its side, the Court ruled without interference from these parties.

States usually, but not always, follow legally binding court orders. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in the Netherlands did not respond to a request for comment.

No evidence of genocide

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that “Russian special military action” is necessary “to protect the people who have been bullied and exterminated” – that is, those whose first or only language is Russian – in eastern Ukraine. Read more

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Russia-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in two breakaway regions in the country’s east since 2014, killing about 15,000 people, according to the government in Kyiv.

A leading association of genocide scholars has supported the view of Ukraine and Western powers that Russia has been misappropriating the term genocide to describe the treatment of Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine.

“There is absolutely no evidence of genocide in Ukraine,” Melanie O’Brien, president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, told Reuters.

The new Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. Moscow has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in the attack. The official UN civilian death toll was 364, including more than 20 children, although officials say the true number may be higher.

“Putin is lying and the Ukrainians – our compatriots – are dying,” Korenevich told the court.

The issue centers on the interpretation of the 1948 treaty on the prevention of genocide, signed by both countries. The treaty specified the International Court of Justice as a forum for resolving disputes between the signatories.

Kyiv’s envoy asserted on Monday that Moscow was violating the treaty and abusing it by using it as a justification for war.

“Russia must be stopped and the court has a role to play in stopping it,” Korenevich told the judges, asking them to impose emergency measures.

The International Court of Justice is the highest court to resolve disputes between nations, and while cases there usually take years, it has a fast-track procedure to consider requests for “interim measures”, to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

(Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg) in The Hague; Additional reporting by Toby Sterling and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam; Editing by Kevin Levy and Frank Jack Daniel’s

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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