From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- ICJ decision on Ukraine crisis and its significance
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Russia to immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine. In short, to end the war instantly.
Breach of the Genocide Convention
- Ukraine moved the ICJ against Russia accusing it of falsely claiming that Ukrainians are committing genocide in their territory and using this untruthful premise to start an illegal war.
- This, Ukraine believes, breaches its rights under the Genocide Convention — a treaty that is binding to both Russia and Ukraine.
- This decision was rendered by the ICJ in response to Ukraine’s application for indication of provisional measures under Article 41 of the ICJ Statute.
- Provisional measures under the ICJ Statute are the international equivalent of an interim injunction that can be provided by the court to preserve the rights of the parties pending a final decision on the merits of the case.
Three reasons cited by the ICJ
1] ICJ’s jurisdiction in the case
- Since 2014, Russia has been repeatedly accusing Ukraine of committing genocide in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
- Just before the military invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned ending the genocide in Ukraine as the reason to use force.
- Ukraine vehemently rejects this charge.
- Prima facie, this shows the existence of a “dispute” under Article IX of the Genocide Convention — the compromissory clause that bestows jurisdiction on the ICJ.
- Self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter: Russia contended that its formal basis for use of force against Ukraine was its right to self-defence under Article 51 of the UN Charter (a patently illegal argument, but this issue is not before the ICJ).
- The court held that it had prima facie jurisdiction in the case because the subject matter fell under the Genocide Convention.
2] Preservation of rights claimed by the parties
- Ukraine argues that it has a right under the Genocide Convention not to be falsely accused of genocide and rely on this wrong pretext to use force against its territorial integrity.
- The ICJ held that the objective of indicating provisional measures is the preservation of the rights claimed by the parties, pending the decision on merits.
- Since the current proceedings were only for provisional measures, the ICJ did not decide definitively whether Ukraine has such a right under the Genocide Convention.
- Nonetheless, the ICJ found Ukraine’s right plausible, which is adequate for the current purposes.
- While the court did not decide on whether Russia has breached the Genocide Convention, as this is a question of merits, it did express doubt over whether a country can unilaterally use force against another country for punishing or preventing an alleged act of genocide.
3] Risk of irreparable harm to Ukraine’s rights
- The ICJ held that if it does not indicate provisional measures, that is, order cessation of military action, there is a real and imminent risk of irreparable harm to Ukraine’s rights.
- This is because of the magnitude of destruction that the ongoing war has caused.
Significance of the order
- ICJ’s decision is binding on Russia and constitutes part of its international legal obligations.
- However, the remedy for not complying with ICJ rulings lies with the UN Security Council, which has Russia as a permanent member.
- But just because authoritarian populist leaders like Vladimir Putin don’t care for international law does not diminish its significance.
The weight of global opinion against Russia on its egregious abuse of international law is mounting with each passing day. Russia can keep ignoring this only at grave peril to itself.