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War in Ukraine | It’s the turn of justice to condemn Russia

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If Ukraine is still under attack from the Russian army – particularly in the city of Mariupol, where a theater in which civilians had taken refuge was bombarded on Wednesday – the country nevertheless obtained an important victory in the courts. In a near-unanimous decision, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s highest court, on Wednesday ordered Russia to “immediately suspend the military operations it began on February 24, 2022 on Ukrainian territory.” .

The decision, which surprised observers with its firmness, was issued under an emergency procedure launched by Ukraine a few days after the start of the Russian invasion.

“The Court is well aware of the scale of the human tragedy in Ukraine” and is “deeply concerned by the use of Russian force which raises very serious problems of international law”, declared in court Judge Joan Donoghue, President of the ICJ.

“I did not expect the Court to go so far,” admits Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, professor at the Faculty of Law at the Université de Moncton, who has previously worked in this institution. He welcomes the “ingenious” arguments presented by Ukraine in connection with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. “Usually you see one state suing another to accuse it of genocide,” says the professor. This time, Ukraine believes that Russia illegally justified its invasion by falsely alleging genocide against Russian-speaking populations in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

The Court did not rule on the merits, but judged that it had enough elements in hand to order the cessation of military operations. The case will therefore continue in court for the next few months. The verdict may not be in for years.

And Canada could play a leading role in this legal action, says Bruno Gélinas-Faucher. “There is a very interesting precedent that presented itself last year. A case has been brought before the ICJ against Burma over allegations of genocide against the Rohingya people. Several observers were of the opinion that Canada could have brought this action, because [l’ambassadeur du Canada aux Nations unies] Bob Rae had been very involved. Finally, it was an African country, Gambia, which filed the action on behalf of the international community. »


PHOTO OLEKSANDR LAPSYN, REUTERS

Firefighters try to contain a fire in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

“However, Canada and the Netherlands have declared that they will intervene in the action against Burma”, specifies the lawyer. ” What it means ? It means that a country supports a cause not only with political statements, but also legally, to support the arguments put forward by another party. »

This is a fairly rare procedure. The fact that Canada announced this last year is a very important precedent.

Bruno Gélinas-Faucher, professor at the Faculty of Law of the Université de Moncton

Joined by The Press Wednesday evening, Bob Rae does not rule out the idea that Canada could intervene alongside Ukraine before the International Court of Justice.

“It’s something we’re actively discussing. I cannot make an announcement, but I can tell you that we are talking about it in the government, and also with other countries,” he said.

In the field

Now, what will this decision change on the pitch? On Wednesday, according to the Ukrainian army, civilians fleeing Mariupol through a humanitarian corridor were bombarded. In Kyiv, shells fell on areas in and around the city, including a residential area 2.5 km from the presidential palace. In Chernihiv, in the north of the country, a dozen people were killed while queuing for bread, said the office of the Ukrainian prosecutor general.

The judgments of the ICJ may be “binding and without appeal”, the Court has no means of enforcing them…


PHOTO MARKO DJURICA, REUTERS

The streets of Kyiv were mostly deserted on Wednesday due to a 35-hour curfew introduced Tuesday evening.

“However, Russia is increasingly isolated, not only economically because of the sanctions, but also from a legal point of view”, observes Vladyslav Lanovoy, professor at the Faculty of Law of Laval University.

The obligations set out by the ICJ are clear, and Russia has an interest in complying with them.

Vladyslav Lanovoy, professor at the Faculty of Law of Laval University

Russia, which did not appear at the hearings to present its defence, had sent a request to contest the jurisdiction of the Court in this case. This request was rejected on Wednesday.

The weight of this judgment is added to the other political and economic pressures exerted so far. “Here we have a court that has assessed evidence and is giving the necessary impetus to confirm the absence of any validity or any pretext on which Russia could rely,” said Mr. Gélinas-Faucher. “And that could push other institutions, other states to speak out,” he adds, like India, which has so far refused to condemn Moscow.

Only two out of 15 judges – those representing Russia and China – did not approve the order. “But it should be noted that there are judges from almost everywhere who voted in favor of it, African, European, Asian judges…”, says Mr. Gélinas-Faucher. “This judgment will send a very powerful message to continue to put pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime. »

With Agence France-Presse

Talks around a neutral status

On the sidelines of talks taking place between Russia and Ukraine, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that negotiators were now discussing a “compromise” that would make Ukraine a neutral country, on the model of Sweden and Austria. Without denying the holding of discussions on Ukraine’s neutrality, the Ukrainian chief negotiator, Mykhaïlo Podoliak, rejected “a Swedish or Austrian model” and insisted on “absolute security guarantees” vis-à-vis Russia. For Professor Vladyslav Lanovoy, of Laval University, the concept of neutrality proposed by the Russians must be studied with caution. “What does neutrality mean if, henceforth, Ukraine can no longer make political decisions concerning its association with an international organization? It would go to the very heart of what sovereignty is, that of each state freely deciding what is best for its people,” he said. “We must be wary of this kind of too broad a position…”

Judith Lachapelle, The Press

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