Ukraine on Sunday filed an urgent appeal before the International Court of Justice—the apex court of the United Nations (UN)—"emphatically" denying Moscow's claim of genocide and sought an immediate halt to the invasion.
The war-torn country asked the ICJ to decide on the disagreement over "the existence of acts of genocide" and Russia's claim to legal authority to initiate military action against the country.
"Russia must be held accountable for manipulating the notion of genocide to justify aggression," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a tweet on Sunday. "We request an urgent decision ordering Russia to cease military activity now and expect trials to start next week," the tweet further read.
According to Reuters, usually cases filed before the highest UN court take years to go to trial. However, in the past, hearings on provisional measures have been known to be held within weeks of a filing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has justified its operation to "demilitarize" Ukraine to prevent atrocities against its Russian-speaking population in the eastern part of Donbass region. United Nations estimates around 102 people including seven children have been killed since the war began on February 24.
Meanwhile, even as millions of refugees have sought shelter in neighbouring countries, Kremlin and the Ukrainian government have initiated peace talks at the Belarussian border.
Russian claims of genocide false: Ukraine to ICJ
The Russian Federation has falsely claimed that acts of genocide have occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine and has used that as a pretext to recognize and liberate the so-called "Donetsk People's Republic" and "Luhansk People's Republic," the Ukrainian government told the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Kremlin has implemented a "special military operation" against Ukraine with the express purpose of preventing and punishing purported acts of genocide, it added. "On the basis of this false allegation, Russia is now engaged in a military invasion of Ukraine, involving grave and widespread violations of the human rights of the Ukrainian people," the plea said.
"In an effort to assert its influence and dominance over Ukraine, since the Spring of 2014, the Russian Federation and persons within Russia have systematically supplied illegal armed groups, including the Donetsk People's Republic ("DPR") and the Luhansk People's Republic ("LPR"), with heavy weaponry, money, personnel, and training," the Ukrainian government outlining the timeline of events.
With active Russian support, these illegal armed groups comprised of pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian nationals emerged in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, spanning the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts," the plea uploaded on ICJ's official website read.
"In March and April 2014, these illegal armed groups occupied public and administration buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk. On 11 May 2014, the DPR and LPR announced their political goal as autonomy from Kyiv and held a purported "referendum" that has been roundly condemned," it added.
Ukraine said there is no factual basis for the existence of genocide and Russia has advanced no evidence to substantiate its allegation. The war-torn country said even the most recent update on the human rights situation in Ukraine released by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)—UN's apex human rights body—covering the period from 1 August to 31 October 2021 "focuses on key human rights developments in Ukraine" and also does not mention any evidence of genocide.
The harm suffered by Ukraine due to Russia's unprovoked invasion will be immeasurable, the plea said requesting for "provincial measures" of protection.
The Ukrainian government submitted that a case pertaining to the annexation of Crimea is already pending before the International Criminal Court (ICC), which decides on allegations of war crimes against individuals. "Over the last few days, Russia has moved beyond these already serious breaches of international law to launch a full-scale invasion against Ukraine, based on false and pretextual allegations of genocide in Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts," the plea further read.
What is the ICJ?
The International Court of Justice (ICJ), constituted in June 1945, is the judicial arm of the United Nations (UN) that succeeded the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ).
The ICJ settles legal disputes between countries only. It also gives opinions on legal questions asked by the United Nations, any of its authorized organs or specialised agencies. According to the rules, only member States of the United Nations and other States which have become parties to the Statute of the Court, or which have accepted its jurisdiction under certain conditions can file an appeal before the ICJ.
The ICJ comprises of 15 judges who have been selected by the United Assembly and the Security Council for a period of nine years. It sits at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands) and has two official languages—English and French.
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