Critics blasted these comments as hypocritical saying France’s recent recognition of an alleged genocide in Ukraine is politically motivated. Just last year, the French parliament voted with President Emmanuel Macron to label Russia’s 1930s Holodomor in Ukraine a “genocide”. The move is widely seen as politically motivated support for Ukraine amid current tensions with Moscow.

Prominent Professor of Economics Yanis Varoufakis also slammed Sejourne: “The French government has joined the German government in stating that international law on genocide does not apply to Israel – that, because Jews have been subjected to genocide, Israel has moral & legal immunity for any war crime, even a genocide, it chooses to commit.”

An ICJ ruling against Israel would carry legal weight as the UN’s principal judicial organ. As a founding signatory, France has an obligation to respect such rulings rooted in international law. Sejourne’s rhetoric suggests a willingness to selectively apply the genocide label for political aims but ignore it when inconvenient.

For supporters of an ICJ probe into Israeli actions in Gaza, the apparent hypocrisy reveals the struggle between international law and political interests. An evidence-based finding of Israeli genocide by ICJ judges would be legally binding, yet France seems poised to disregard the court’s credibility due to its unquestioning support for the apartheid state of Israel.

Source: Middle East Monitor (1/19/2024).

The French government has joined the German government in stating that international law on genocide does not apply to Israel, suggesting that France may decide to ignore the ICJ ruling if it decides to accuse Israel of genocide.

Did a European country ever decided not to respect a ruling made by the ICJ?

When did it happen and what were the political consequences of ignoring the ICJ ruling?

  • 4
    I think it's pretty silly to think that since a particular nation once suffered genocide in the past that that particular nation is then incapable of ever committing genocide regardless of how many people their military kills during a protracted conflict or all-out war.
    – user57467
    Commented Jan 20 at 0:24
  • 2
    I'm at loss what's "Russia's Holodomor in Ukraine". 1930's Soviet Union hunger affected territories in modern Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Any other attribution is misleading.
    – alamar
    Commented Jan 20 at 0:38
  • 2
    This is Greek professor Yanis Varoufakis interpreting what the French government said. Is there maybe a source that quotes the statement of the French government directly?
    – quarague
    Commented Jan 20 at 12:33
  • Well, the same French government decided to ignore a decision by the ECHR, so you get the idea that they may be getting rather Trumpian. spectator.co.uk/article/… OTOH, I'm not convinced that MEMO/Varoufakis is correctly summarizing the French & German position in this case that "international law on genocide does not apply to Israel". They probably said something else. Also, such cases can take a looong time for ICJ to decide... Croatia v. Serbia took 16 years! Commented Jan 22 at 20:55
  • 2
    The US has also dismissed the case out of hand. carnegieendowment.org/2024/01/18/… So we can probably guess how the Western judges will be voting at the ICJ. Commented Jan 22 at 21:12

1 Answer 1


If you're considering Russia as a "European country", they definitely ignored the provisional ICJ order to stop their invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has rejected an order by the United Nations' highest court to cease its attack on Ukraine, saying both sides had to agree to end the hostilities for the ruling to be implemented.

Speaking to reporters on March 17 [2022], the day after The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced the decision saying it was "profoundly concerned" by Moscow's unprovoked invasion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on March 17 that Russia "cannot take this decision into account."

ICJ justices voted 13-2 in favor of the order, which stems from a case filed by Kyiv over Russian allegations of genocide by Ukraine, which Moscow used as one of its pretenses to launch the invasion on February 24.

(Only the Chinese and Russian judges voted against that ICJ order.)

It's hard to say what the consequences of that act in isolation were. The rest of the world probably didn't make their decisions any differently as a result of that. (I mean countries which sanction or don't sanction Russia, or help or not help Ukraine were probably barely influenced by anything that ICJ said in that regard.)

Also, some Italian courts have ignored the ICJ decision [but applied their own Constitution] that Germany can't be sued without it agreeing so, in Italian courts:

Germany argues that Judgment No. 238/2014 of the Italian Constitutional Court, ‘adopted in conscious violation of international law and of Italy’s duty to comply with a judgment of the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, had wide-ranging consequences’. It adds that, since the delivery of the Judgment ‘at least 25 new cases have been brought against Germany [before Italian courts]’ and that ‘in at least 15 proceedings, Italian domestic courts […] have entertained and decided upon claims against Germany in relation to conduct of the German Reich during World War II’. [...]

Italy, as a member of the UN, is bound as a state to comply with decisions of the ICJ; failure to comply makes Italy liable in international law for this breach. However, in the Italian legal system, the constitution, as interpreted by the Italian Constitutional Court, requires that a claim against a state can be allowed to proceed as a matter of domestic Italian law. It therefore appears that the Italian Constitutional Court has resolved the conflict in Italian domestic law by favouring the constitutional protections, not the customary international law principle of sovereign immunity.

That was in 2022. OTOH there are some more recent developments in that saga:

the Italian government had been looking at how to keep good relationships with Germany while recognising victims’ rights to compensation without undermining the Constitutional Court’s stance. The very next day, it introduced a Decree-Law (later converted into law) establishing a fund for reparations for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Third Reich’s armed forces on Italian territory or against Italian citizens between September 1st, 1939 and May 8, 1945. Under this law, recalling the Bonn Agreement, Italy assumed full responsibility for compensating successful applicants in merit proceedings against Germany. The law set short time limits for merit proceedings and fund applications, prevented the initiation of new enforcement proceedings over German assets, and automatically extinguished existing ones. As a result, Germany withdrew its request for provisional measures. A ministerial decree outlining the procedure to access the fund should have been adopted by 1 December 2022, but was delayed due to a change of government and shifting priorities. Time limits were extended accordingly.

[...] On June 28, 2023 the Italian government finally issued the implementing ministerial decree outlining how to access the fund; the Constitutional Court decided on the matter on July 4, 2023 (published on July 21). The Court found the law proportionate and compliant with the Constitution, ruling that the government reasonably balanced the constitutional principles of access to justice and respect for international obligations and treaties.

The Court reasoned as follows. First, it reaffirmed that Germany’s assets with public purpose enjoy immunity from enforcement, but Germany itself does not enjoy immunity from jurisdiction because that would prevent victims from getting justice for atrocities. Once again, the Court accepted the international customary norm on jurisdictional immunity for iure imperii acts, but explicitly excluded its operativity in the Italian legal system for delicta imperii, i.e. crimes committed in violation of international norms of ius cogens. This humanitarian exception constitutes a ‘derogation’ to the rule on immunity that was affirmed in the Constitutional Court’s own judgment in 2014. On the point, the Court ingeniously explained that its 2014 judgment did not review the ICJ’s interpretation of the scope of the customary rule on foreign states’ jurisdictional immunity. Instead, it reviewed the constitutional compatibility of the ‘effects’ of the internal provision derived from such customary rule, finding that they were in contrast with the supreme constitutional principles of the ‘right to a judge’ and protection of inviolable fundamental rights of the person, jointly summarised in the fundamental right to human dignity, which operates as a ‘counter-limit’.

AFAICT, the case 2nd Germany v. Italy case at the ICJ is still ongoing though, as of Dec 2023. Reading the extension order of Dec 5, it seems Germany was concerned that some cases (by Greek nationals IIRC) might actually continue in Italian courts... against Germany because the Italian fund does not cover claims by 3rd party nationals. So the ICJ case was extended until 2025, waiting further developments in Italian courts.

Also, both Western European nations in the P5 (hand in hand with USSR & USA though) ignored an early ICJ advisory opinion that there shouldn't be quid-pro-quo "deals" in admitting new members:

As early as February 1946, it became clear that the veto power led to a complete deadlock in the admissions procedure.31 The cause for this deadlock consisted in the disagreement between the United States and its western allies on the one hand and the Soviet Union on the other, in relation to the question whether applications should be dealt with as a whole (US) or whether each candidacy should be considered individually (USSR). Between 1946 and 1955, discord among permanent members prevented the admission of all but a small number of new members. Eventually, the impasse was brought to an end in 1955, when the P-5 reached a ‘package deal’ on the joint admission of sixteen new members, leaving aside the more controversial States. By linking the various applications, the permanent members deliberately acted against the prevailing legal doctrine, affirmed by the International Court of Justice, that it was inadmissible to render the admission of a State dependent upon the condition of the admission of another State.

That case from '48 is here.


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