ICJ Issues Decision on Ukraine’s Terrorism Financing and Racial Discrimination Case Against Russia

On Wednesday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its judgment in Ukraine’s case against Russia under the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (ICSFT) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Ukraine initiated the case in 2017, after Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 people aboard. At the provisional measures stage in 2017, the ICJ concluded that Russia was required to refrain from maintaining or imposing limitations on the Crimean Tatar community to conserve its representative institutions and to ensure the availability of education in Ukrainian. The Court further ordered the parties to refrain from aggravating or extending the dispute. In its 2019 preliminary objections ruling, the Court rejected Russia’s preliminary objections on jurisdiction.

At the merits stage, while the ICJ ruled that Russia had violated one article of the ICSFT and one article of the CERD, it rejected Ukraine’s other claims under the two treaties. Specifically, the Court, by a vote of 13 to 2, found that the Russian Federation violated Article 9 of the ICSFT by failing to investigate based on information received from Ukraine on persons who allegedly committed terrorism financing offenses. On the CERD, also by a vote of 13 to 2, the Court found that Russia violated its obligations under Articles 2 and 5 of the CERD in the way it implemented its educational system in Crimea after 2014. The Court rejected Ukraine’s claims that, among other things, Russia had violated its treaty obligations to prevent the financing of terrorism in Ukraine’s territory and freeze related funds. It also rejected Ukraine’s claims that Russian law enforcement practices and failure to investigate allegations of racial discrimination violated Russia’s CERD obligations. The merits judgment resulted in multiple separate opinions, dissenting opinions, and declarations by Court judges.

This decision was separate from the ICJ case that Ukraine initiated against Russia in 2022 under the Genocide Convention, after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. A ruling on that case is expected today.

Note: Readers may be interested in our original coverage of this case (application, oral argument, and provisional measures) in 2017.

U.N. Officials Emphasize Reliance of Humanitarian Response in Gaza on UNRWA

On Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement that the U.N. is “taking swift action following the extremely serious allegations against several UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) staff members.” The statement followed allegations that 12 UNRWA employees were involved in the October 7th attack in Israel and emphasized that “[a]ny UN employee involved in acts of terror will be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.”

On Monday, Martin Griffiths, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council that the humanitarian response in Gaza is “completely dependent” on UNRWA. He further urged countries to restore funds that have been withheld from the agency. Guterres on Wednesday called UNRWA “the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza.” While multiple countries temporarily suspended funding after the allegations emerged, “donor countries signaled on Wednesday that they would continue to support the organization under the right conditions and stressed its essential role in delivering lifesaving aid.”

Note: Readers may be interested in our Gaza coverage.

ICC Prosecutor: Reasonable Grounds to Believe Sudanese and Opposition Forces Committing Atrocity Crimes in Darfur

On Monday, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, told the U.N. Security Council that “[t]here are reasonable grounds to believe that Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces are committing atrocity crimes in Darfur.” He called for compliance with international law but emphasized that the international community cannot proceed with “business as usual.” The war between Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) began in April 2023. Mr. Kahn began an investigation in the Darfur region in July 2023. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in December 2023 that the United States had determined that the Sudanese armed forces and RSF had committed war crimes and that members of the RSF and allied militias had committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Khan called the situation in Darfur “dire by any metric,” with more than 7.1 million Sudanese civilians having been displaced since the conflict began last year. He further emphasized the human suffering behind the numbers and the “collective responsibility of the Security Council, United Nations, Member States, regional organizations and the ICC ‘to live up to our promises that we have repeatedly made,’” noting that judicial decisions would not be enough and that the international community should urgently identify and implement other solutions.

Note: Readers may be interested in our Sudan coverage.

U.N. Appeals for $2.7 Billion for Humanitarian Aid in Yemen

On Thursday, the U.N. launched a $2.7 billion appeal for humanitarian aid in Yemen. After years of conflict, there are “18.2 million Yemenis in need of life-saving assistance and protection, and 17.6 million are estimated to face acute food insecurity.” Last year, the U.N. sought $4.3 billion for Yemen aid, but less than half of the 2023 appeal was funded.