ICJ Rules Against Ukraine on Terrorism, MH17

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.

ICJ delivers ruling in Ukraine v. Russia Wednesday at The Hague. (U.N. TV Screenshot)

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

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 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. 

Russian legal team listening to ICJ’s ruling on Wednesday. (U.N. TV Screenshot)

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:

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

10 comments for “ICJ Rules Against Ukraine on Terrorism, MH17

    February 2, 2024 at 19:15

    We recorded everything pertaining to MH17, at the time, and on the day it was happening. These are the facts. First there was a diversion radio message to MH17 ordering that it change course to fly over the rebel held disputed area of Ukraine, the pilot queried it but was told to proceed. Then observers on the ground, posted footage showing two Ukrainian fighter jets in the vicinity of MH17, one of them was close to MH17 when it fired missile directly into the nose of MH17. It was filmed and posted to the net by farmers directly below. We copied all of this to a protected hard drive, to ensure none was lost. Russia had nothing to do with it, it was the Ukraine air force that fired the rocket.

  2. Micky
    February 1, 2024 at 17:44

    As much as I hate the actions of war it is hard to see how Mr Putin could do anything else in the leadup to this mess. He certainly tried but peace was clearly not wanted by the West and this was one of the many leadup actions to force war on him. I hate to think of the karmic debt of nato and the rest of them if there is such a thing.

  3. scc
    February 1, 2024 at 13:15

    Now there should be a case Russia vs Ukraine filed to the ICJ for exactly the same accusations (terrorism, oppression of Russian speaking Ukrainians and discrimination)…

  4. Barry Kissin
    February 1, 2024 at 11:34

    “Former NATO Military Analyst Blows the Whistle on West’s Ukraine Invasion Narrative,” April 9, 2022, by Jacques Baud at
    Also see Jacques Baud, Operation Z (Paris: Max Milo, 2022). In the period from October 1, 2019, to March 30, 2020, the UN documented that 84.4% of civilian casualties were from Ukrainian artillery shelling. Baud: “The Ukrainian government is massacring its own people with the help, funding and advice of the military of NATO and the countries of the European Union that defend its values.”
    Ukraine and the West did not just “fail to implement” the Minsk Accords. Soon after the Minsk II agreement, the coup government of Ukraine redoubled its attacks on the Donbas.

  5. Bart Hansen
    February 1, 2024 at 11:19

    I wonder whether the Court could take up a case regarding Theresa May’s Skripal Project.

  6. Carey Harriman
    February 1, 2024 at 10:45

    What would you do with $8,000,000.00?

    Joe Biden and the Democrats spent it on two Patriot missiles, and gave them to Ukraine. Ukraine then used the $8 million worth of high-tech missiles to shoot down a transport plane that was carrying Ukrainian prisoners to a prisoner swap. The plane flight was announce to Russia as a part of the prisoner swap. The swap was planned for specific day, and Russia had agreed to move the prisoners to the swap, and informed Ukraine as a part of the deal. Ukraine used the Joe Biden missiles and the $8 million dollar gift from the American taxpayers to kill their own captured soldiers.

    Your American tax dollars at work. This is what America decides to do with $8,000,000. I hope you weren’t hoping for money for the local homeless shelter. Genocide Joe wanted over 100 people do die instead.

    PS .. the American media called the crash as ‘disputed’ and then stopped covering it. The Russian media has the missile fragments with the English lettering declaring them to be the product of Raytheon. Americans also pay through the advertising and cable bills for the media that lies to them.

    Now, lets all join in a patriotic chant of Four More Years!

  7. nwwoods
    February 1, 2024 at 10:31

    It bears remembering that Russia was denied its right under international law any access to the MH17 investigative process while the other prime suspect was not. Moreover, the Ukrainian intelligence services released what they characterized as captured Russian communications implicating Russia in the downing of the plane, which was immediately shown to be an amateurish forgery of stitched together pieces of various different recordings. And finally, back in 2014 John Kerry claimed that the U.S. had sat recon evidence implicating Russia which they have never produced to this day. A single Dutch judge was allowed to view the “evidence” and he responded that it does not show what the Americans claim it did.
    Russian official Maria Zakharova claims that she warned Kerry at the time that they would expose American lies about MH17 and Kerry responded (paraphrasing) ‘good luck with that. We control the world media’.

  8. renard
    February 1, 2024 at 06:37

    My understanding is that the court acknowledged that Russia did provide Ukrainian language education in Crimea, but expressed it's concern that the number of pupils wanting to be educated in Ukranian is shrinking. Why wouldn't they, one might ask. After all, people are living in Russia now.

  9. February 1, 2024 at 06:10

    Could the narrow construction of support for terrorism – i.e. it does not apply to provision of weapons – set a damaging precedent for the US military support of Israel terrorism and genocide in Gaza? (but the US also provides direct financial support to Israel as well as military support and weapons).

  10. Francis Lee
    February 1, 2024 at 03:40

    Throughout this period, November 2013, the EU and high-ranking US officials were openly engaged in Ukraine’s internal affairs. The US Ambassador, Geoffrey Pyatt, and the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, – who else ! – were strolling around Independence Square reassuring the protestors that America stood behind them.

    Also basking in the political sunlight were US NGOs (such as the National Endowment for Democracy – NED – directly funded by the US Government) and (USAID). Also involved was the US Human Rights Watch (HRW) and not forgetting of course the ubiquitous Mr. Soros. Identified as GS in the leaked Open Society Foundation (OSF) documents, others involved in the Ukrainian coup in the planning, were the already named, US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, along with the following: David Meale (Economic Counsellor to Pyatt, Lenny Benardo (Open Society Foundation – OSF) Yevhen Bystry (Executive Director International Renaissance Foundation – IRF) Oleksandr Sushko (Board Chair, IRF) Ivan Krastev (Chairman Centre for Liberal Studies, a Soros and US government-influenced operation in Sofia, Bulgaria) and Deff Barton (Director, US Agency for International Development AID – USAID – Ukraine). USAID is a conduit for the CIA.

    Even right-wing thinkers such as George Freidman at Stratfor described these events as being ‘the most blatant coup in history.’

    And so it was. As it turned out the new the new order of right-wing extremists West of the Dnieper took control and prepared themselves for a military sortie into Eastern Ukraine and the Donbass, Lugansk and Donetsk. The war had begun. And Russia didn’t start it until April 2022. In fact Putin held back and the Don Bass militias gave the Ukies a bloody nose in Debaltsevo and Ilovaisk until the shelling had to stop. So what’s this nonsense about Russia and Putin starting the war! We know who started the war.

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