Russia Must Suspend Military Operations In Ukraine, Directs International Court of Justice

In a significant order, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday directed that Russia must immediately suspend its military operations in Ukraine.

"The Russian Federation, pending the final decision in the case, must immediately suspend the military operations it commenced in the territory of Ukraine on February 24, 2022",the Court ordered.

The Court further directed,

"The Russian Federation shall ensure that any military or irregular armed units which may be directed or supported by it, as well as any organization or persons subject to its control and direction, shall take no steps in furtherance of the above military operations".

Both these orders were passed by a majority of 13 votes against 2, with Indian judge at ICJ Justice Dalveer Bhandari voting in favour of the majority.

President of the ICJ Judge Joan E Donoghue (USA), Judge Peter Tomka (Slovakia), Judge Ronny Abraham (France), Judge Mohamed Bennouna (Morocco), Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia), Judge Julia Sebutinde (Uganda), Judge Dalveer Bhandari (India), Judge Patrick Lipton Robinson (Jamaica), Judge Nawaf Salam (Lebanon), Judge Iwasawa Yuji (Japan), Judge Georg Nolte (Germany), Judge Hilary Charlesworth (Australia), Judge ad hoc Daudet voted in favour whereas Vice-President Kirill Gevorgian (Russia) and Judge Sue Hanqin (China) voted against.

However, all the judges of the ICJ unanimously directed both Ukraine and Russia to ensure that they refrain from any action which can aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court.

"Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve", the Court ordered unanimously.

The Court was delivering its Order on the request of Ukraine for the indication of provisional measures in the case concerning Allegations of Genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide against Russia. The application moved by the Ukrainian government had accused Russia of carrying out and "planning acts of genocide in Ukraine" and had inter alia urged the ICJ to urgently indicate provisional measures directing Russia to suspend its ongoing military onslaught.

On Wednesday, the ICJ at the outset expressed its regret at the non-appearance of Russia in the proceedings and accordingly observed,

"The Court regrets the decision taken by the Russian Federation not to participate in the oral proceedings on the request for the indication of provisional measures, as set out in the above-mentioned letter of 5 March 2022. The non-appearance of a party has a negative impact on the sound administration of justice, as it deprives the Court of assistance that a party could have provided to it. Nevertheless, the Court must proceed in the discharge of its judicial function at any phase of the case"

The Court noted that it has prima facie jurisdiction under Article 9 of the Genocide Convention to entertain the application of Ukraine. The Court also observed that there are grounds of urgency and irreparable loss to consider provisional measures in favour of Ukraine pending the final decision in the case.

"Ukraine has a plausible right not to be subjected to military operation by Russian federation for the purpose of preventing & punishing an alleged genocide in the territory of Ukraine", the Court observed.

The Court further underscored that its order on provisional measures create binding obligations under Article 41 of the ICJ Statute and thus create international legal obligations for any party to whom the provisional measures are addressed.

In its order indicating provisional measures, the ICJ observed that the Genocide Convention does not permit unilateral military action by one state on another state for preventing genocide. The Acts taken by a State to prevent genocide must be in conformity with the convention and the charter of the United Nations in letter and spirit.

Opining that the military action of Russia is a fit case for indicating provisional measures, the Court observed that any military action in particular one on the scale carried out by the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine, inevitably causes loss of life, mental and bodily harm, and damage to property and to the environment.

Further observing that the civilian population of Ukraine is extremely vulnerable, the ICJ underscored,

"The Court considers that the civilian population affected by the present conflict is extremely vulnerable. The "special military operation" being conducted by the Russian Federation has resulted in numerous civilian deaths and injuries. It has also caused significant material damage, including the destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Attacks are ongoing and are creating increasingly difficult living conditions for the civilian population. Many persons have no access to the most basic foodstuffs, potable water, electricity, essential medicines or heating. A very large number of people are attempting to flee from the most affected cities under extremely insecure conditions."

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