- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Russia announced its withdrawal Wednesday from the International Criminal Court within hours of being rebuked by the ICC for effectively creating an international armed conflict upon its invasion of Ukraine.

The decision to part ways was revealed by the Kremlin through a presidential decree issued Wednesday which said Russia will tell the United Nations it will “no longer be a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” removing itself from involvement with the Hague-based tribunal that counts more than 120 nation-states as current members.

“This is a position which the country assumed being guided by national interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday, according to state-controlled media.

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The ICC has proven to be “ineffective” and “failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It is worth noting that during the 14 years of the Court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars,” the statement said.

An ICC representative responded to Russia’s withdrawal by noting that membership in the treaty is entirely voluntarily and a “sovereign decision which is the prerogative of all states.”

“Russia signed the Rome Statute in 2000 but did not ratify it and is not a State party. The ICC is respectful of each States’ sovereignty,” ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah said in a statement.

“The support of the international community is necessary for the ICC to fulfill its independent and impartial mandate to help end impunity for the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, provide justice to the victims of such crimes and contribute to the prevention of future atrocities,” his statement said.

The United States and Russia both signed the Rome Statute in 2000, though neither country ever ratified the treaty officially. Coincidentally, the ICC laid out war crime allegations against both Washington and Moscow as recently as this week.

On Monday, the ICC said the U.S. military may have committed war crimes by torturing dozens of detainees during the Afghanistan war between 2003 and 2004. On Tuesday, the same tribunal said Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2004 was tantamount to a military conflict, provoking condemnation from the Kremlin.

“According to information received, the situation in the Crimea and Sevastopol is equivalent to the international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian federation,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in Tuesday’s report, adding that Moscow “employed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the territory of Ukraine without the consent of the government of Ukraine.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax-Ukraine the ruling “absolutely contradicts the reality, it contradicts our position, and, what counts most, it contradicts the position expressed in a referendum by the citizens of Crimea, when they decided to become part of the Russian Federation.”

The foreign ministry in Moscow threatened to cut ties with the court earlier this year over its ruling with respect to the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, and reiterated its disappointment with that decision in announcing its withdrawal this week, saying, “We can hardly trust the ICC in such a situation.”

“This is a symbolic gesture of rejection, and says a lot about Russia’s attitude towards international justice and institutions,” Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch told The Guardian in response to Russia’s withdrawal. “On a practical level it will not make much difference, but it is a statement of direction: it shows that Russia no longer has any intention of ratifying the treaty in future or of cooperating with the court.”

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