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UN court rules partial jurisdiction in Ukraine genocide request

International Court of Justice courtroom Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong

UN court rules partial jurisdiction in Ukraine genocide request

The United Nations’ top court on Friday found it does have jurisdiction to rule on a request by Ukraine to clear it of committing genocide. However, the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, also said it would not rule on whether Russia violated the UN’s 1948 genocide convention during the invasion.

Why is Ukraine asking for the court to find it not guilty of genocide? Russia bases the legitimacy of its 2022 invasion of Ukraine on claims that Kyiv was committing genocide against Russians in the country. The ICJ gave a preliminary ruling in March 2022 ordering Russia to halt the invasion. Russia refused, alleging the court had no jurisdiction to rule on the case. The court has now ruled it can hear Ukraine’s case against Russian claims of genocide—while it is unable to rule on Ukrainian claims of Russia committing genocide during the invasion.

How does the UN define genocide? The UN’s genocide convention currently defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.” Its definition extends beyond killing, including the infliction of severe physical or mental damage on a people group. Intentionally lowering the birth rate of a people group or forcibly moving children from one group to another are also considered acts of genocide. The World Court has never ruled a country responsible for genocide.

Will either country appeal any of the decisions? Verdicts in the ICJ are final and not eligible for appeal. The UN Security Council is responsible for enforcing the court’s rulings.

Dig deeper: Read my report on another ICJ ruling from earlier this week, rejecting Ukraine's request for reparations from Russia.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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