ICJ Preliminary Objections Hearing: Concluding remarks by the Agent for Ukraine Ms.Olena Zerkal
Mr. President, Members of the Court. I am honoured to conclude the oral pleadings of Ukraine and make our final submissions.
I will be brief, because there is no more to say. Russia has tried to change the subject, twisted the law, and denied the facts. But Ukraine’s claims are clear. The disputes are clear. Our good faith efforts to resolve them are clear. The Court’s jurisdiction is clear.
Yesterday, we heard only more distractions. Mr. Wordsworth says you should declare that there was no terrorism in Ukraine, without considering the facts on the merits, just because various monitors did not use the word “terrorism.” Professor Zimmermann admitted that Russia’s own law prohibits the financing of terrorism by state officials. But he thinks it is ridiculous for Ukraine to ask Russia to prevent such crimes.
Professor Pellet asked, apparently seriously, Ukraine to rely on Russia’s “bonnes grace”. He also suggested that Russia would consider unfair and might not accept a judicial decision of this Court. And Professor Forteau decided that this Court’s provisional measures order has become “deprived of object.” Apparently, Russia thinks it can decide for itself that binding orders are not binding. All this confirms what I said in Tuesday regarding Russia’s attitude towards international law.
As for the Agent of Russia, he mocks the treaties we are here to discuss. Russia clearly does not see these treaties as important. So it assumes Ukraine has no interest in them, and only wanted to bring, and I quote, “any kind of case.” This is not “any kind of case.” It is a serious case, about serious violations of serious treaties. I’m sorry that Russia does not take it seriously.
We have also heard a lot about the Minsk process. With the same passion as when Professor Pellet says that “or” means “and,” Russia demands that 3 equals 5. The working group is called Trilateral, with Ukraine and Russia as parties and OSCE as facilitator. There are not five parties.
As duly noted by OHCHR in its report of August 2016 on the human rights situation in Ukraine, “[n]o amnesty can be given” for the most serious crimes and human rights violations. And whatever Mr. Wordsworth says, amnesty for such crimes, like the acts of terrorism we are discussing here, was never under consideration within the Minsk process.
But this is all irrelevant. Russia’s discussions of Minsk and amnesty are more distraction. As this Court said in Nicaragua, the Court has a responsibility to resolve legal disputes that are properly brought before it, even if the “question before the Court is intertwined with political questions.” Whatever other disputes we have with Russia, there is a dispute under the ICSFT and CERD between Ukraine and Russia, and we have a right under the treaties for our claims to be heard.
We are also disappointed in Russia’s attitude toward MH17. The evidence continues to mount. Every party to the JIT endorsed the conclusions of investigations presented so far. The investigation is nearing an end, and we are confident that indictments will follow. Individual justice is important, and so is this case. MH17 is a tragic part of the story of financing of terrorism. That full story must be heard on the merits.
Finally, we are shocked that the Agent of the Russian Federation would stand before the World Court and comment on the internal affairs of my country. I can understand that Russia might be confused by a peaceful transfer of power after free and fair elections. For my part, I am confused by Russia’s attitude. On Monday, Russia accused us of a “violent coup d’etat.” Yesterday it tried to use our elections against us. Let me explain it to those who doubt, I am here on the instructions of the President of Ukraine, with a clear mandate to defend the interest of Ukraine and seek justice for its people.
As I said on Tuesday, Ukraine came here only as a last resort. Russia may feel entitled to bully its neighbors and seed instability in the world. But we are not required to stay silent while Russia violates treaties. We do not have to accept their manipulations.
All Ukraine asks in this Court of international law is the chance to be heard. On the merits.
Mr. President, Members of the Court, I have the honor to present Ukraine’s final submissions.
Ukraine respectfully requests that the Court:
Dismiss the Preliminary Objections submitted by the Russian Federation in its submission dated 12 September 2018; and
Adjudge and declare that it has jurisdiction to hear the claims in the Application submitted by Ukraine, dated 16 January 2017 and that such claims are admissible, and proceed to hear those claims on the merits; or
In the alternative, to adjudge and declare, in accordance with the provisions of Article 79, paragraph 9, of the Rules of Court that the objections submitted by the Russian Federation do not have an exclusively preliminary character.
I wish to express my gratitude to thank the Registry and its staff for their kind assistance in these proceedings; to the interpreters for their hard work; and finally, Mr. President, Members of the Court, thank you for your attention and serious consideration.
This concludes Ukraine’s second round of argument.