MOSCOW: Russia said Wednesday it is formally withdrawing its signature from the founding statute of the International Criminal Court, saying the tribunal has failed to live up to the hopes of the international community.
Russia in 2000 signed the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, the world’s first permanent war crimes court, but never ratified the treaty.
“The court did not live up to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent,” Russia’s foreign ministry said, describing its work as “one-sided and inefficient”.
Moscow said it is unhappy with the ICC’s ongoing investigation into Russia’s brief 2008 war with neighbouring Georgia, saying the court ignored aggression by Tbilisi against civilians in South Ossetia — a pro-Moscow separatist region of Georgia.
“In these conditions one cannot speak of trust in the International Criminal Court,” the ministry said, adding that the decision “not to be a participant in the ICC statute” was taken by President Vladimir Putin and entails “withdrawing the signature from this document”.
Putin on Wednesday signed the decree, published in the official database, ordering the government to communicate the decision to the UN Secretary General.
“We have withdrawn the signature, so all obligations associated with the signature are lifted,” said foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. “There are no longer any obligations.”
The ICC is currently conducting a preliminary investigation of alleged crimes committed in Ukraine during street protests in late 2013 as well as events after February 2014 including the annexation of Crimea and the downing of the MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine.
In a report published Monday, the ICC’s office of the prosecutor said that information already available suggests the situation in Crimea “amounts to an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation” despite lack of major violence.
It said the office is examining allegations against Russia to determine whether the conflict in east Ukraine between pro-Russia separatists and government forces “could be actually international in character” and would fall under the relevant articles in the Rome Statute.
Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes in Syria, where it has been conducting air strikes to aid the Bashar al-Assad government and bombing the city of Aleppo as well as attacking rebels.
The ICC opened its annual meeting on Wednesday with several African nations formally withdrawing from the court.