Just days after the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided the United States and CIA may face trial for war crimes over alleged abuses committed in Afghanistan, Russia has preemptively avoided the ICC’s jurisdiction for its own alleged abuses. It has formally withdrawn from the ICC.
Under a directive signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia has stated it will withdraw from the ICC because the ICC “has failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent authoritative international tribunal,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Russia claimed the ICC was “ineffective,” stating that “during the 14 years of the court’s work it passed only four sentences having spent over a billion dollars.”
Despite Russia’s warranted criticism of the court itself, Putin’s detractors may have rightly identified some more sinister reasons behind the withdrawal. According to Foreign Policy:
“On Monday, the ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, issued a report saying for the first time that the conflict in Ukraine amounts to an armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine…It goes on to say that Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian peninsula Crimea ‘actually amounts to an on-going state of occupation.’”
Further, Russia has been accused of committing war crimes in Aleppo and wider Syria over its military’s heavy bombardment of opposition-held areas. Just this week, Russia launched a large-scale offensive in Aleppo, as well as in the Syrian districts of Homs and Idlib. It used its recently deployed flotilla of warships.
Now that it has become clear that not even the United States will be immune from the ICC’s jurisdiction, Russia has evidently made a decision to escape trial while it still can. The decision to withdraw lends credence to the idea they are not adequately protecting civilians in Syria and that there may actually be Russian forces deployed in Ukraine, despite its assertions to the contrary.
It most likely won’t be the last.
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