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Armenia ratifies Rome Statute despite Russian warnings

3 October 2023
The Armenian Parliament in session. Image via factor.am

Armenia’s Parliament has ratified the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute despite the Kremlin warning that it would have ‘the most negative consequences for bilateral relations’.

The Armenian Parliament ratified the statute on Tuesday, with 60 MPs voting in favour and 22 voting against. The treaty has been submitted to President Vahagn Khachaturyan for approval.

Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Armenia’s representative for international legal issues, said at the plenary session that Armenia sought to ratify the Rome Statute to hold Azerbaijan accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Kirakosyan was referring to several videos which surfaced online after the end of the two-day war with Azerbaijan last September which showed Azerbaijani soldiers summarily executing Armenian captives. Other footage showed the mutilation of an Armenian soldier by Azerbaijani troops.

‘We hope that that the ratification will have a significant preventive effect in order to exclude and prevent the commission of similar serious crimes in the territory of the Republic of Armenia’, said Kirakosyan.

Opposition MPs, who voted against the bill, argued that the Rome State contradicted the constitution and that it would not ‘bring any benefit’, as neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan were party to the treaty. 

The ruling Civil Contract party has maintained that the Rome Statute did not violate any constitutional norms.


Russia warns Armenia

Russia has repeatedly warned Armenia against joining the treaty since the Armenian government first signalled their intention to do so.

On 28 September,  Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov condemned the planned rarification as an ‘incorrect’ and ‘extremely hostile’ decision. 

The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for President Putin for alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine.

The Armenian government sent the Rome Statute to parliament for ratification on 1 September.

On 13 September, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expressed full support for the ratification, adding that it ‘has nothing to do with Armenian–Russian relations’.

‘The Rome Statute will be ratified, with my position and the support of our parliamentary colleagues, fully, and it has nothing to do with Armenia–Russia relations, but it has to do with Armenia’s security issues.’

Armenia’s Constitutional Court greenlit the ratification process in March — a week after the ICC issued arrest warrants for President Putin and Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for the deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.

The treaty was approved by the parliament’s state and legal issues committee on 28 September and was submitted to parliament on the same day.

On the same day, Kirakosyan, Armenia’s international legal issues representative, told journalists that he did not think the treaty would obligate Armenia to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin should he visit the country, as current heads of state are endowed with immunity.

Although Kirakosyan did not elaborate on how Putin would be provided immunity, the Rome Statute states that it applies ‘to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity’.

Kirakosyan also said that Yerevan had offered ‘solutions’ based on the articles of the treaty that would allow the creation of ‘certain guarantees for the concerns that some partner states may have’.

‘The text was submitted months ago, we are waiting for the proposal [Russia]’, Kirakosyan said.

In response, Moscow stated that it had sent a ‘compromise option’ of its own and claimed that Armenia had ‘not taken it into account’. 

The ICC arrest warrant has already prevented President Putin from attending international events for fear of arrest. Putin was scheduled to attend August’s BRICS summit in South Africa in person. But amid concerns he could be arrested under the ICC warrant, Putin eventually took part in the summit remotely and sent Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in his stead.

Armenia first signed the Rome Statute in 1998, but the Constitutional Court deemed the treaty unconstitutional in 2004.

Yerevan began looking into the ratification of the treaty again in 2022, with the intent of taking Azerbaijan to the ICC over the two-day war in September and several other incidents.

While the constitution has since been amended several times, Armenia’s opposition has claimed that the articles the Rome Statute appeared to be incompatible with have not fundamentally changed.

On Tuesday, before the parliament voted for the ratification, Armenian media reported that 60 Armenian lorries exporting brandy to Russia were held up at the Georgian–Russian border. The Armenian Embassy in Moscow told Armenpress that the Russian customs authorities barred the shipment to ‘prevent possibly counterfeit alcohol from entering the country’.

‘Whether the supervision has been increased due to more violations being recorded or whether there’s some political subtext to this, I can’t say because I don’t have such information’, said the embassy’s commercial attache.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.
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