Armenian President Vahagn Khachaturyan has signed into law the ratification of the Rome Statute, which empowers the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the country. This decision, which was announced on the presidency’s website on Friday, comes after the Armenian parliament ratified the Rome Statute earlier this month with a vote of 60 to 22. However, two opposition factions walked out during the deliberations but later returned to cast their votes against ratification.
Armenia originally signed the Rome Statute in 1999 but suspended its ratification in 2004 due to concerns about its compatibility with the nation’s constitution. The ICC accession process was reignited in late 2022 following deadly border clashes with Azerbaijan and was expedited during a recent flare-up in the region, which resulted in a major victory for Azerbaijan and the dissolution of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic, a breakaway region of Azerbaijan backed by Armenia.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has argued that the ICC’s involvement would help prosecute alleged Azerbaijani “war crimes” committed on Armenian soil. He has also criticized the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) regional defense bloc, claiming that it failed to protect Armenia’s interests.
However, Armenia’s decision to ratify the Rome Statute has been met with criticism from its closest ally, Russia, which has described it as an “extremely hostile move.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed Russia’s concerns to the Armenian side before the parliamentary vote, stating that they have been skeptical of this decision’s impact on bilateral relations. Peskov further remarked that this move raises additional questions for the incumbent Armenian leadership.
It is important to note that Russia has had a strained relationship with the ICC, perceiving it as a politically biased body that abuses its mandate on behalf of the Collective West. This strained relationship worsened in March when the ICC issued warrants for two top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, regarding the alleged “kidnapping” of Ukrainian children during the Moscow-Kiev conflict. Russia has vehemently denied these accusations and stated that it has simply evacuated children from the war zone and returned them to their legal guardians upon request.
In summary, Armenia’s ratification of the Rome Statute has been viewed as a significant step, giving power to the ICC within the country. However, this decision has strained its relationship with Russia, its closest ally, who considers it an “extremely hostile move.” The implications of this decision and its impact on bilateral relations remain to be seen. Moreover, Russia’s ongoing concerns and tensions with the ICC add another layer of complexity to the situation.