ICJ issues mixed ruling in Ukraine case against Russia

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Jan. 31 that Russia failed to investigate Ukrainian claims that Russian nationals finance terrorism in Ukraine, in violation of its obligations under Article 9 of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (ICSFT). The ruling's press release states that the ICJ otherwise rejected requests by Ukraine for a plethora of provisional measures. Ukraine had requested the ICJ declare Russia in violation of both the ICSFT and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), seeking a court order demanding Russia comply with its obligations under these conventions. Ukraine also requested that the ICJ order Russia to prosecute certain officials, such as the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, and further requested reparations for civilian shelling.

The case began in 2017 when Ukraine charged that Russia failed to prevent and suppress terrorism financing, in particular to two entities that refer to themselves as the "Donetsk People's Republic" and the "Luhansk People's Republic," both of which are under de facto control of Russia. Ukraine alleged Russian-backed groups committed a variety of terrorist attacks, including the 2014 shoot-down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, and the bombing of civilian areas. Ukraine also complained about political and cultural repression by Russia, especially the forced disappearances of Crimean Tartars, and suppression of Tartar institutions and language.

The ICJ declared that Russia violated its obligations under Article 9, but did not consider it "necessary or appropriate to grant any of the other forms of relief requested by Ukraine." The court found that Russia had failed "to take measures to investigate facts contained in information received from Ukraine regarding persons who have allegedly committed an offense set forth in Article 2 of the [ICSFT] and violated its obligation under Article 9." Article 2 of the ICSFT states that any person who helps fund the offenses listed in the ICSFT, including terrorism, violates the convention. The court also found that Russia "by the way in which it implemented its educational system in Crimea in 2014 violated its obligations under Article 2 of [ICERD]." Article 2 of ICERD requires states to create policies and systems to remove racial discrimination.

On Feb. 2, the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to determine aspects of a second case brought by Ukraine against Russia in 2022, concerning alleged breaches of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

From Jurist, Jan. 31; Jurist, Feb. 3. Used with permission.

Note: The International Criminal Court has opened a separate investigation into war crimes claims against Russia. Several nations, including the US, have filed "declarations of intervention" in support of Ukriane's genocide case against Russia. Ukraine also has a case challenging the legality of Russia's Crimea annexation pending before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In 2022, a Dutch court found three Russian-backed Donbas separatist leaders guilty in the downing of Flight MH17.