World Court Tells Putin, “Nyet!”

March 17th, 2022 - by UNFOLD ZERO Newsletter / Basel Peace Office & Stephanie van den Berg / Reuters

The World Court issued the Order on February 16, 2022

World Court Orders Russia
To Halt Invasion of Ukraine

UNFOLD ZERO Newsletter / Basel Peace Office & Stephanie van den Berg / Reuters

(March 16, 2022) — The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, today ordered Russia to immediately halt its military operations in Ukraine, and announced that the ICJ order to do so is legally binding. (See ICJ press release and World Court orders Russia to halt military operations in Ukraine, Reuters, March 16, 2022).

The ICJ order was made as a preliminary measure in a case that Ukraine lodged in the ICJ under the Genocide Convention in response to the Russian invasion.

Russia launched their military attack on Ukraine on February 24, based on allegations that Ukraine undertook acts of genocide in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts, and that the military operation was required to prevent and punish such alleged acts of genocide.

Ukraine, in their application to the Court, denies that they committed any such acts of genocide. As such, they argue that the Russian invasion is illegal. In addition, Ukraine argues that Russia is undertaking acts of genocide against Ukrainian populations as part of their military operation.

Both Ukraine and Russia are parties to the Genocide Convention. The jurisdiction of the Court for this case is provided in Article IX which states that:
‘Disputes between the Contracting Parties relating to the interpretation, application or fulfilment of the present Convention, including those relating to the responsibility of a State for genocide or for any of the other acts enumerated in article III, shall be submitted to the International Court of Justice at the request of any of the parties to the dispute.’ 

Today’s order by the ICJ also called on both parties — Ukraine and Russia — to refrain from aggravating the situation further, while the court continues the full proceedings to decide on the allegations of genocide.

Decision binding and influential, but difficult to enforce

As noted by the ICJ Order, the decision of the court is legally binding on the parties to the dispute. However, the Court does not have means to enforce its decisions. As such, Russian compliance will rely on other factors — both within Russia and internationally.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky indicated in a tweet that this was a very significant development, that it constitutes a “complete victory in its case against Russia” and that “ignoring the order will isolate Russia even further.”

In a somewhat similar case in 1984 when Nicaragua won a case against the United States in the ICJ for their military actions against Nicaragua, the United States refused to accept the decision of the Court. Never-the-less, the decision was instrumental in restricting and eventually curtailing United States military action against Nicaragua, and also in paving the way for the Central American Peace Accords (the achievement of which resulted in the Costa Rican president winning the Nobel Peace Prize).

Basel Peace Office, Seminar für Soziologie, Universität Basel, Petersgraben 27, Basel CH-4051, Switzerland

World Court Tells Russia to Cease Military Operations

Stephanie van den Berg / Reuters

THE HAGUE (March 16, 2022) — The United Nations’ top court for disputes between states ordered Russia on Wednesday to immediately halt its military operations in Ukraine, saying it was “profoundly concerned” by Moscow’s use of force.

Although the rulings of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) are binding, it has no direct means of enforcing them, and in rare cases in the past countries have ignored them.

“The Russian Federation shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on Feb 24, 2022 on the territory of Ukraine,” the ICJ judges said in a 13-2 decision.

They added that Russia must also ensure that other forces under its control or supported by Moscow should not continue the military operation.

Ukraine filed its case at the ICJ shortly after Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, saying that Moscow’s stated justification, that it was acting to prevent a genocide in eastern Ukraine, was unfounded.

In addition to disputing the grounds for the invasion, Kyiv also asked for emergency “provisional” measures against Russia to halt the violence before the case was heard in full. Those measures were granted on Wednesday.


During hearings earlier this month, Ukraine said there was no threat of genocide in eastern Ukraine, and that the U.N.’s 1948 Genocide Convention, which both countries have signed, does not allow an invasion to prevent one. [Read more ]

Ukrainian government forces have been battling Russia-backed separatists in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine since 2014. Kyiv and its Western allies reject Moscow’s claims of any genocide being perpetrated against Russian speakers there.

Russia said it had skipped the hearings at the ICJ, also known as the World Court, “in light of the apparent absurdity of the lawsuit.”[Read more]  It later filed a written document arguing that the court should not impose any measures.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday welcomed the ruling by the ICJ on emergency measures as “a complete victory” in its case against Russia.

“The (ICJ) order is binding under international law. Russia must comply immediately. Ignoring the order will isolate Russia even further,” Zelenskiy said on Twitter.

Reading out Wednesday’s ruling, presiding judge Joan Donoghue said the court was “profoundly concerned about the use of force by the Russian Federation in Ukraine which raises very serious issues of international law”.

Reporting by Stephanie van den Berg, Marine Strauss, Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder; Writing by Anthony Deutsch


Yurii Sheliazhenko, writing from Kyiv, Ukraine:
Interestingly, popular (and rightist) Ukrainian media reported about the order of the court as if it is addressed only to Russia.
Here is the order Final part: “Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve” is vague while orders to Russia to stop military operation are more concretely articulated. And yet, I think it is enough to demand cessation, or at least limitation of military aid to Ukraine because continuing war “might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court.”
Justice should be served by the lawyers, not by the killers.