UN Court takes on Ukraine’s case against Russia, partially grants request to provisional measures

The Members of the Court on 19 April 2017 (Delivery of the Order of the Court). 
Copyright: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek

The Members of the Court on 19 April 2017 (Delivery of the Order of the Court).
Copyright: UN Photo/ICJ-CIJ/Frank van Beek 

2017/04/20 - 04:15 • News

In line with our readers’ predictions, the UN International Court of Justice has recognized its prima facie jurisdiction in the case of Ukraine against Russia, despite Moscow’s attempts to convince the court that it does not have the authority to consider Kyiv’s requirements (full text of decision). The judges, in particular, examined whether Kyiv fulfilled all procedural requirements and conventions noted that all of Ukraine’s attempts to resolve disputes through negotiations have failed.

The court had rejected Ukraine’s first request – to introduce provisional measures to make Russia implement the demands of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorism Financing Convention). Ronny Abraham, the President of the Court had announced this decision in The Hague on 19 April. According to the judges, Ukraine had not provided sufficient proof that the Russian side had the goal of killing civilians in Donbas or knew about the corresponding intentions of the Russian-backed militants, which was predicted

The provisional measures Ukraine requested were to compel the Russian Federation to stop the supply of weapons and arms to groups carrying out terrorist attacks and influence them to prevent the carrying out of such attacks. However, Mr. Abraham stressed that the Court’s refusal to grant these measures doesn’t stop Ukraine in its further actions in this accusation, and that the consideration of the case will continue, as this stage doesn’t concern the non-judicature of the UN Court, but only whether Ukraine had fulfilled the requirement of providing necessary evidence for imposing provisional measures. Ukraine will continue filing new evidence in support of Russia’s guilt.

However, in line with expert predictions, the Court granted Ukraine’s request to make Russia comply with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Court ordered to take urgent measures to ensure that the Crimean Tatars have their own representative institutions, including the Mejlis, Russia’s ban on which in occupied Crimea the Court found to be a violation of the Convention. Moreover, Russia should provide Ukrainians in Crimea the right to study in the Ukrainian language.

In making this decision, the judges of the Court took into account a UN 2016 report on human rights in Ukraine, which noted that the Russian “authorities” in Crimea exerted pressure on students and teachers of Ukrainian schools to stop teaching in the Ukrainian language.

Additionally, the International Court of Justice obliged Ukraine and Russia to fulfill the Minsk agreements, despite Russia’s claims that the court proceedings are incompatible with the ongoing Minsk process.

The Court will continue hearings in the case in May, and the sides will continue to supply evidence.

Ukraine’s MFA pleased

The decision of the Court was hailed as a victory in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. According to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Olena Zerkal writing for Yevropeiska Pravda, the Court took a constructive approach in the case “Ukraine vs. Russia,” despite the fact that it refused to approve provisional measures relating to Donbas, and especially since this is the first decision that the Court has made related to this Convention.

Zerkal noted that the Court supported Ukraine’s notion that the events in Donbas which Ukraine presented are subject to the Convention and that it formally recognized the prima facie (preliminary) jurisdiction over this Convention.

She also said that the decision taken by the Court is “very positive” for Ukraine, and stated that Ukraine “weak spots” were also revealed, and where Ukraine should work more to gather evidence and prove Russia’s intentions within the framework of the Convention on the Financing of Terrorism.

Overview of the case

  • Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia due to violations of the international law by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, specifically – of breaching the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorism Financing Convention) by funding and supporting militants in the Donbas, and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
  • Russia had claimed that the court has no jurisdiction over the case and that it has not violated the abovementioned conventions.
  • According to Ukraine’s Agent Olena Zerkal, Ukraine’s strategy was to prove that Russia violates numerous UN conventions and show that ICJ has the necessary jurisdiction to rule on the subject. Russia, it its turn, tried to outline the case as the armed conflict, so that it would be regulated by international humanitarian law—the ICJ has only limited jurisdiction in this sphere.
  • Although the ICJ has no means to enforce its decisions, its recognition of prima facie jurisdiction in the case means that the international community has additional leverage in demanding Russia to stand down.
  • Hearings in the case could take several years, which is why Ukraine had requested to apply provisional measures to Russia immediately.
  • The calendar of next hearings in the case will be outlined in May 2017.

With reporting by dw.com, eurointegration.com

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  • Ihor Dawydiak

    Ukraine has done its part and will continue to do its part in both securing a moral victory over Russia while at the same time shaming the Kremlin on the international stage. However, this should only be considered as the opening salvo (along with Ukraine’s defensive capabilities) in fighting against Russian subterfuge and military aggression. For his part, Putin the Pederast and his mangy mongrels (or should that be Mongols) will continue to lie and deny about their abominations and seek “redemption” from the Russian Supreme “Court” as the Kremlin had already passed a law stating that International Courts were subservient to the Russian “judicial” system. So where do we go from here? The answer: raw power and not only from a military standpoint. Much more devastating social, economic and financial sanctions must be leveled against Putin’s regime. This has been and will continue to be Russia’s “Achilles Heel”. All that will be needed is grit and determination from the Western powers to make it happen.

    • Steve

      A removal from SWIFT would be nice as well. But I doubt European Businesses with business with Russia will not tolerate it and the European Politicians are too gutless to do it.

      • Alex George

        Why European politicians? Are you aware of any US or British politicians advocating it?

        Also US businesses do a lot of business with Russia also.

        • Steve

          It has been advocated by individual politicians with Congress and Parliament. But no body of gov’t has pursued it since the folks that run SWIFT have politely said no with a lot of words. But since Ukraine is Europe’s problem primarily since it is the soft underbelly of Europe and Holland of France along with Merkel of Germany are pursing Minsk II is why I specifically fixated on Europe. After all SWIFT is in Europe.

          • Alex George

            You can “fixate” on Europe all you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that US politicians are no different to European ones on this issue.

            Regardless of where SWIFT is physically located, the US has a great deal of influence here, but it is obvious that the US has no more interest in pursuing this than anyone else.

    • Alex George

      Right on the money, Ihor.

      These court cases don’t do a lot by themselves, but they are all part of a much larger pressure on the Kremlin, pressure which will never let up,

    • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_ontological_proof Styx

      “Ukraine has done its part and will continue to do its part in both securing a moral victory over Russia while at the same time shaming the Kremlin on the international stage. However, this should only be considered as the opening salvo (along with Ukraine’s defensive capabilities) in fighting against Russian subterfuge and military aggression. For his part, Putin the Pederast and his mangy mongrels (or should that be Mongols) will continue to lie and deny about their abominations and seek “redemption” from the Russian Supreme “Court” as the Kremlin had already passed a law stating that International Courts were subservient to the Russian “judicial” system. So where do we go from here? The answer: raw power and not only from a military standpoint. Much more devastating social, economic and financial sanctions must be leveled against Putin’s regime. This has been and will continue to be Russia’s “Achilles Heel”. All that will be needed is grit and determination from the Western powers to make it happen.”

      All in your ever so vivid dreams that is.

      • George Evans

        it would have helped if the Ukrainians had any semblance of right in this matter…

  • zorbatheturk

    RuSSia has probably tried to bribe these UN stooges.