In 1998, an international conference initiated by the United Nations was held in Rome, where 120 countries, including Armenia, agreed to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was tasked with investigating, prosecuting, and trying individuals responsible for crimes against humanity. The conference came to be known as the “Rome Statute,” however, the court’s headquarters was based in The Hague, the administrative capital of the Netherlands, where the International Court of Justice is also located, the body to which Armenia has recently applied regarding the closure of Lachin corridor by the Azeris. Although the ICC was established in 2002, not all countries have ratified the “Rome Statute,” including the United States, Russia, and China, each with their own concerns. Until now, Armenia’s National Assembly has not ratified the Statute of Rome.
Due to the atrocities committed against Armenian prisoners of war during the frequent attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia, the government determined that it was time to join the ICC to be able to hold Azeri leaders accountable for their war crimes. The ratification process was initiated after receiving a favorable ruling from the nation’s highest court, affirming that the “Rome Statute” is constitutional.
A few days after the Constitutional Court ruled on this matter, in a separate development, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of forcibly transporting Ukrainian children to Russia and labeling him as a war criminal. This decision angered the Kremlin, which expressed concern that the president’s visits to other countries could be restricted, since ICC member countries are obligated to enforce the Court’s arrest warrants.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has declared that it strongly opposes Armenia’s intentions to join the International Criminal Court, in light of the ICC’s actions against the Russian leader. The Armenian Ambassador to Russia, Vagharshak Harutyunyan was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be cautioned of the adverse effects of such a move.
This issue adds to Russia’s concerns about the presence of European observers on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, during a joint press conference with his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Moscow, expressed his country’s concerns about this matter. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova highlighted these same issues stating that the situation got more ominous when the Europeans appeared on the Armenia-Azerbajan border.
It is no secret that the relations between Armenia and Russia have been strained since the 44-day war in Artsakh. The Russian side bears responsibility for the current state of affairs between the two countries. When Azerbaijan invaded Armenia’s sovereign territories in May of 2021 and again in September of 2022, occupying large areas of land, Russia did not fulfill its obligations as an allied nation to defend Armenia. It did not even condemn Azerbaijan’s actions. Then came the closure of The Lachin Corridor by the Azerbaijani side, yet the Russian peacekeeping forces were unable to enforce the tripartite agreement signed at the end of the Artsakh war to keep the corridor between Artsakh and Armenia open. Following the 44-day war, Russia refused to provide new armament to rebuild the Armenian Army, even though hundreds of millions of dollars were paid in advance, forcing Armenia to look elsewhere to purchase arms. All these contributed to the deterioration of the relations between Armenia and Russia.
The Armenian government can easily resolve the matter of joining or not joining the ICC by not bringing the issue up for a vote by the National Assembly, but the core differences between the two countries remain unresolved. Armenia and Russia have deep-rooted connections that are beneficial for both nations. The confidence between them can be restored and relations can be normalized without much difficulty. Moscow needs to reconsider its recent anti-Armenian policies and go back to playing its vital and historical role in the Caucuses region, including defending the territorial integrity of Armenia, envisioned by the treaties signed by the two nations.