UN high court summons Ukraine and Russia for 7-8 March

UN denounces use of heavy weapons against Ukrainian cities

photo_camera AP/PAVEL DOROGOY - View of the central square after the shelling of the City Hall building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, 1 March 2022

The UN on Tuesday denounced increased attacks on civilians in Russia's invasion of Ukraine and expressed concern about the use of heavy weapons against cities in the country. "The Secretary-General (Ant贸nio Guterres) is very concerned about the use of heavy weapons against urban centres in Ukraine. These weapons can have a horrible impact on the civilian population," said his spokesman, St茅phane Dujarric, during his daily press conference.

Dujarric said that with the civilian deaths and damage to civilian infrastructure that have become known in recent hours, "the human cost" of the conflict is becoming increasingly clear. So far, as of 28 February, the UN had counted 136 civilian deaths in attacks, but Dujarric said today that the real figure is feared to be much higher. On the humanitarian front, he said that UN agencies and their partners continue to deliver aid despite the difficulties, even in areas that are difficult to access.

On Sunday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) delivered a first truckload of assistance to central Ukraine to support families in shelters after being evacuated and others in need. In addition, the first food shipments organised by the World Food Programme (WFP) are on their way from Turkey, Dujarric said.

Moreover, the spokesman said that in recent days Guterres had repeatedly tried to ensure that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would be able to travel to Geneva to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. Lavrov finally announced yesterday that he was cancelling his trip because of a ban on his plane flying over the airspace of several European countries. Dujarric said that Guterres had twice spoken to the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, so that Lavrov could arrive in Geneva, without success.

Meanwhile, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will hold hearings on 7 and 8 March to hear Ukraine's application against Russia accusing Moscow of committing acts of genocide. "The hearings will be devoted to Ukraine's request for interim measures," the UN high court said in a statement today.

Kiev's team of lawyers will intervene on 7 March to denounce Moscow on the basis of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, a 1948 treaty signed by both countries. Moscow's lawyers will reply a day later, on 8 March. "Representatives of the parties to the case will participate in person or by videoconference," the court said, so it does not yet know which authorities from Kiev and Moscow will be present at the Peace Palace, the ICJ's headquarters in The Hague.

Ukraine has claimed that Russia is "intentionally killing and inflicting serious injuries on Ukrainian nationals" and has asked the ICJ to impose interim measures against Moscow to "avoid irreparable damage to the rights of Ukraine and its people" and "aggravation or prolongation of the dispute between the parties". The presiding judge, Joan E. Donoghue warned Russia that it must "allow any order the ICJ makes on the request for interim measures to have its proper effect".

This is not the first time the UN high court has dealt with tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as the court declared itself competent in November 2019 to try Moscow's support for pro-Russian militias in the Donbas, a lawsuit that is at the stage of written pleadings.

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