Russia urges UN's top court to toss out Ukrainian case that seeks to halt Moscow's invasion

View of the Peace Palace which houses World Court where Ukraine's legal battle against Russia over allegations of genocide used by Moscow to justify its 2022 invasion, resumed in The Hague, Netherlands, Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. Russia seeks to have a groundbreaking case tossed out at the International Court of Justice, also known as the Word Court, in a case which will see Ukraine supported by a record 32 other nations in a major show of support for the embattled nation. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Russia on Monday called a Ukrainian case alleging that Moscow abused the Genocide Convention to justify its invasion last year an “abuse of process,” as lawyers for Moscow sought to have judges at the United Nation’s highest court throw it out.

As a series of lawyers laid out Moscow’s objections to the case, the leader of Russia’s legal team at the International Court of Justice, Gennady Kuzmin, told the 16-judge panel that Ukraine’s case that seeks to halt the invasion “is, hopelessly flawed and at odds with the longstanding jurisprudence of this court.”

He said Ukraine’s filing is “a manifest disregard of the proper administration of justice and constitutes an abuse of process.”

Kyiv’s case filed shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, argues that the attack was based on false claims of acts of genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of eastern Ukraine and alleges that Moscow was planning genocidal acts in Ukraine.

Ukraine claimed that “Russia has turned the Genocide Convention on its head — making a false claim of genocide as a basis for actions on its part that constitute grave violations of the human rights of millions of people across Ukraine.”

Lawyers for Russia insist that the court does not have jurisdiction and that the genocide convention cannot be used to regulate use of force by nations. Ukraine’s legal team will respond Tuesday and urge judges to press ahead to hearings on the substance of its claims.

In his opening speech, Kuzmin echoed Russian claims about what he called “neo-Nazis” in Kyiv and drew parallels between Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the 1999 NATO airstrikes on Serbia aimed at halting Belgrade’s military campaign in Kosovo.

Ukraine brought the case to the Hague-based court based on the 1948 Genocide Convention, which both Moscow and Kyiv have ratified. In an interim ruling in March 2022, the court ordered Russia to halt hostilities in Ukraine, a binding legal ruling that Moscow has flouted as it presses ahead with its devastating attacks on Ukrainian towns and cities.

Another lawyer for Russia, Sienho Yee, told judges that Russia had not used the genocide convention to justify its military actions in Ukraine, saying they “are based on the right to self-determination and its inherent right to self-defense.”

In an unprecedented show of international support for Kyiv, 32 of Ukraine’s allies including Canada, Australia and every European Union member nation except Hungary will also make statements Wednesday in support of Kyiv’s legal arguments. The United States asked to make legal arguments on Ukraine’s behalf, but the U.N. court’s judges rejected the U.S. request on a technicality.

The court’s panel of international judges will likely take weeks or months to reach a decision on whether or not the case can proceed. If it does, a final ruling is likely years away.

The International Court of Justice hears disputes between nations over matters of law, unlike the International Criminal Court, also based in The Hague, which holds individuals criminally responsible for offenses including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The ICC has issued a war crimes arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of responsibility for the abduction of Ukrainian children.