On 8 November 2019, the International Court of Justice (“ICJ”) delivered a major decision in Ukraine’s case against the Russian Federation. Today, the Court decisively rejected Russia’s jurisdictional objections and approved that Ukraine’s application was properly filed with the Court. All Ukraine’s claims, which concern the financing of terrorism in Ukraine and racial discrimination in Crimea, will be considered on the merits.

Russia has long tried to avoid accountability for its many violations of international law. With this decision, Ukraine’s pursuit of justice moves forward. Ukraine filed its application with the ICJ on 16 January 2017 as part of a strategy to hold Russia liable for its violations of international law. The case documents Russia’s violations of two important Conventions: the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

When Russia joined the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, it undertook to suppress the financing of terrorism, but acted differently in Ukraine. Members of so-called “L/DPR” have perpetrated acts of terrorism against civilians using weapons supplied from the Russian Federation. Russia has also violated its international obligations by failing to prevent Russian officials and other Russian nationals from providing these weapons to known terrorist groups. With this Russian support, these groups attacked MH17, killing nearly 300 people; started deadly burst of missile fire on Ukrainian cities, including the assaults at the checkpoint near Volnovakha and residential neighborhoods in Kramatorsk, Mariupol and Avdiivka; and planted bombs to blow patriotic rallies, popular nightclubs, and other peaceful locations.

The Russian Federation has likewise undertaken to eradicate racial discrimination, but acted differently in Ukraine. In occupied Crimea, Russia maintains a policy of racial discrimination and cultural erasure directed against the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities. Russia has trampled the political, civil, and cultural rights of these ethnic communities, including through imposition of ban on the Mejlis, the representative institution of the Crimean Tatar community; disappearances and murders of Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian activists; arbitrary searches and detentions; ban on cultural gatherings and suppression of media; and restriction of opportunities for children to education in their native languages.

Ukraine will continue to further use legal remedies to hold Russia liable for its violations of international law. Today’s Order is one in a string of successes for Ukraine. In May 2019, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Russia to release illegally seized Ukrainian servicemen and naval vessels. In April 2017, the ICJ issued a significant Order on indication of provisional measures to protect the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities in occupied Crimea.

As a result of today’s Order, Ukraine is ready to present its case on the merits before the ICJ. As the next step, the Court is expected to fix a time limit for the Russian Federation to file a Counter-Memorial. After further submissions, the Court will hold a hearing on the merits at which Ukraine will be able to present its full case.