In April of 2014, Ukrainian armed forces engaged in an armed conflict against the separatist forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). This followed shortly after the Russian Federation’s annexation of Crimea. The situation in Ukraine has since spiralled out of control, leading to 10,000 casualties and several human rights abuses, particularly in respect to the ‘right to life’ codified under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Several Western-leaning entities such as NATO have since condemned the Russian Federation for financing rebel separatists in the Eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The United States of America and the European Union went so far as to impose economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, understanding Russia’s involvement in Ukraine as a sign that Russia is expanding it’s sphere of influence despite impending western agendas in the region. As you may have guessed, these are the worrying signs of yet another proxy confrontation between the East and the West.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Ukraine filed a suit against the Russian Federation for the illicit annexation of Crimea and for breaching the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the International Court of Justice on 16 January.
This is undeniably a landmark case that will dominate the international legal landscape for years to come, yet many academic commentators have already predicted that Ukraine will not get the happy ending they are gambling for in The Hague.
After all, a simple glance at Georgia’s failed attempt to bring Russia to justice in The Hague under similar conditions between 2008 and 2011 would suggest that Ukraine’s legal crusade against Russia was always going to be an uphill battle – and make no mistake, Russia have employed similar tactics in their defence against Ukraine as they did against Georgia.
On Tuesday 7 March, Roman Kolodkin (Director-General of the legal department of the Russian Foreign Ministry) made three critical points in the Federations in response to Ukraine’s hopes to persuade The Hague to order provisional measures against Russia to halt human right abuses amidst the ongoing conflict. First and foremost, it was argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to preside over this case. Secondly, the Russian Federation turned the tide on Ukraine by asserting that the so-called “rebels” of the DPR and the LPR were striving for self-determination and independence. Most importantly, however, Russia made a case for the lack of merit that Ukraine’s allegations carried.
For those interested in pursuing this case, the Crimean crisis and the shooting down of the MH17 Malaysian Airlines passenger flight are central themes that require careful studying. Yet, in my eyes, these very events have culminated to this historic hearing and the opening arguments of both sides have confirmed one thing: to the mere observer, we all remain in limbo in regards to the far-reaching effects of this case. The only thing certain is that this case will not strive for peace. Instead, it will be characterised by name calling, the manipulation of truth, and – worst of all – it will serve as a continuous reminder that history never fails to repeat itself.
Written By: Aman Mulji
1. Dan Alexe, ‘Ukraine brings Russia before the Court of Justice in The Hague’ (NEWEUROPE, March 6 2017) <https://www.neweurope.eu/article/ukraine-brings-russia-court-justice-hague/> accessed 8 March 2017
2. Y I, ‘Russia’s representative in the Hague: Case brought by Ukraine against Russia beyond court’s jurisdiction’ (UKRINFORM, 7 March 2017)
4. VandenBerg Stephanie , ‘Will Ukraine get a fairytale ending in The Hague? ‘ (International Justice Tribunal, 6 February 2017)
5. <https://www.justicetribune.com/articles/will-ukraine-get-fairytale-ending-hague> accessed 8 March 2017