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ICJ lets 32 countries back Ukraine in genocide case against Russia

The International Court of Justice has accepted requests from 32 countries to back Ukraine in a genocide case against Russia, the United Nations’ highest court said Friday.

It’s the largest number of countries to join another nation’s complaint at the world court based in The Hague, Netherlands.

Ukraine’s government filed the legally creative case days after Russia invaded its neighbor in February 2022. The Kremlin snubbed hearings held the next month, while protesters holding Ukrainian flags chanted antiwar slogans outside the court building’s gates.

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Latvia was the first country to intervene in the complaint, which alleges Russia violated the 1948 Genocide Convention by falsely accusing Ukraine of committing genocide in its eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and using that as a pretext for the invasion.

A record 33 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and every European Union member nation except Hungary requested to participate on Ukraine’s side in the case. However, the U.N. court’s judges rejected the U.S. request on a technicality.

“The court concludes that the declarations of intervention filed in this case, except for the declaration submitted by the United States, are admissible,” they said.

The United Nations headquarters is seen in New York, Friday, July 27, 2007 . Ms. Alicia Barcena, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Management announced Michael Adlerstein as Captal Master Plan Executive Director and pre-construction plan for new UN building at the UN headquarters in New York on Friday. (AP Photo/Osamu Honda)

The United Nations headquarters is seen in New York. The multinational body’s International Court of Justice has allowed a record 32 countries to back Ukraine’s genocide case against Russia. (AP Photo/Osamu Honda)

Any country that has signed the post-World War II treaty criminalizing genocide is allowed to file for intervention in cases brought under the accord. The United States did not accept part of the Genocide Convention when it signed the treaty, so the judges determined the country wasn’t entitled to participate.

Countries and organizations not directly involved in legal proceedings often ask courts if they can submit arguments in a case, particularly if the outcome might impact them in some way.

Experts see the petitions in the pending case as attempts to demonstrate support for Ukraine and to condemn Russia’s war rather than countries seeking opportunities to advocate particular legal positions or arguments.

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“The countries are expressing solidarity with Ukraine,” Ori Pomson, a legal scholar at the University of Cambridge whose research focuses on the International Court of Justice, told the Associated Press.

In March 2022, the court ordered Russia to stop hostilities in Ukraine, but Moscow has failed to comply.

The world court is hearing a separate case brought earlier by Ukraine linked to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russian funding of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

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A similar group of countries also asked the European Court of Human Rights to intervene in a group of cases Ukraine brought against Russia over the war. In March, the Strasbourg-based court granted 31 groups the right to back Ukraine in those proceedings.

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