Russia withdraws from International Criminal Court treaty

The ICC opened its annual meeting on Wednesday with several African nations formally withdrawing from the court.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, was founded when 120 countries adopted its founding treaty in 1998.

Russia is removing its signature from the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) founding treaty after the President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on Wednesday.

The order by Putin came after the ICC angered Moscow by referring to Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea as an armed conflict in a report. It is also examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian and Georgian forces during a brief 2008 war.

Russia never ratified the ICC treaty, which it signed in 2000, meaning it never became a member subject to its jurisdiction. But the symbolic move coincided with the opening day of the general assembly of member states.

"Unfortunately, the court has not justified the hopes attached to it and has not become a genuinely independent authoritative organ of international justice," the foreign ministry said.

"It is revealing that in its 14 years of work the ICC has pronounced just four verdicts and spent over $1 billion."

Russia is under international pressure over its campaign of air strikes in Syria, with some human rights activists and US officials accusing it of bombing civilians and civilian targets. Russia has denied those allegations.

Russia's announcement may be welcomed by African states like South Africa and Gambia, which have recently announced their withdrawals.

However, critics said the move was yet another example of Moscow flouting international norms.

"It confirms Russia's retreat from its international commitments," said Human Rights Watch activist Liz Evenson. "It's closing the door for people within Russia to this important judicial institution."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision to withdraw Russia's signature had been taken "in the national interest" and was a formality as it didn't change anything as far as jurisdiction was concerned.

Most African and European countries continue to support the court, the first permanent international war crimes tribunal.

The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, was founded when 120 countries adopted its founding treaty in 1998. It is seen as a successor to the Nuremburg trials after World War II and ad-hoc UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

TRTWorld and agencies