In International Court of Justice, International Law, Russia, Ukraine

International Court of Justice, The Hague, Netherlands. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

By Joe Lauria in The Hague, Netherlands. Special to the Consortium News.

Feb. 1, 2024

In a blow to Ukraine, the World Court ruled Russia didn’t finance terrorism in Donbass and the court refused to blame Moscow for the downing of Flight MH17.

The World Court ruled on Wednesday that Russia did not finance terrorism in its defense of separatists in Ukraine and the court refused to find Russia guilty of downing Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 as Ukraine had asked.

The case was brought to the ICJ by Ukraine in 2017, three years after the U.S.-backed coup in Kiev overthrew the democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych.

When Russian speakers in Donbass rebelled against the unconstitutional change in government that they had voted for, the coup leaders in 2014 launched what it called an “anti-terrorist” military operation to put down the rebellion.

Russia responded by helping ethnic Russians with arms and other military equipment. Ukraine claimed to the court that that was in breach of a treaty barring terrorism financing.

But the ICJ ruled on Wednesday that the treaty only covered cash transfers made to alleged terrorist groups. This “does not include the means used to commit acts of terrorism, including weapons or training camps,” the Court said in its judgement.

“Consequently, the alleged supply of weapons to various armed groups operating in Ukraine… fall outside the material scope” of the anti-terrorism financing convention, the Court ruled. The Court also said it had no evidence to show that any of the armed militias in Donbass fighting against the government could be characterized as terrorist groups.

The ICJ found only that Russia was, “failing to take measures to investigate facts… regarding persons who have allegedly committed an offense.” It added that the court “rejects all other submissions made by the Ukraine.”

The ruling is highly significant in undermining Kiev’s claim to be fighting a war against terrorists in Donbass, an essential part of the Ukraine’s and the West’s narrative in justifying its brutal operation that left more than 10,000 civilians dead.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 amid indications that Kiev was beginning a new offensive against Donbass. Ukraine and the West had failed to implement two peace agreements negotiated in Minsk and endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

Western and Ukrainian officials later admitted they never had any intention of implementing the deal and pretended to to buy time to build up its forces against Russia.

Rejected MH17 Claim

In its complaint to the Court, Ukraine had also claimed that Russia was responsible for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in 2014, killing all 298 civilian passengers and crew on board. Kiev wanted Russia to pay compensation to the victims.

But the court refused to rule whether Russia was responsible and to order compensation. This ruling appears to contradict the results of the official investigation into the incident.

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) and a Dutch-led joint investigation team (JIT) concluded in 2016 that the plane was shot down by ethnic Russian separatists using a missile supplied by Russia. Moscow has denied involvement in the incident.

The ruling on MH17 came two weeks after the European Court of Justice decided that the Dutch government was not required to release information it has about the incident. The Dutch news outlet RTL Nieuws had brought the case before the ICJ.

It wanted to know what reports the Dutch government had received about Ukrainian airspace before the plane was shot down. The government refused to release that data and the European court ruled it did not have to divulge information regarding aviation safety.

No Discrimination

Ukraine was also denied compensation for what it said was discrimination against ethnic Tatars and Ukrainians in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014.

The court only agreed that Russia failed to adequately protect Ukrainian language education in Crimea. This complaint came as Ukraine passed laws discriminating against the Russian language in the country.

US Judge Votes Against Russia

Joan Donoghue, the American judge who is president of the Court, voted to protect Ukraine against several of the measures of the judgement.

For instance, she voted (in a 10-5 vote) against rejecting “all other submissions made by Ukraine with respect to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.” She only voted for the point criticizing Russia for not properly investigating the charge and against rejecting Ukraine’s demands for compensation.

Donoghue also voted (in another 10-5 vote) against rejecting Ukraine’s charge regarding discrimination against Ukrainians and Tartars in Crimea.

CN‘s Joe Lauria was outside the World Court on Wednesday before the ruling came down:

Credit: Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe


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