by Chana Roberts
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a directive on Wednesday to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Hague. The ICC is meant to be the world's first permanent court and works to prosecute leaders and countries for war crimes, genocide and "crimes against humanity."
Russia withdraws from International Criminal Court, says court is 'ineffective.'
In 2000, Russia signed the Rome treaty establishing the ICC, but never ratified it. The ICC was established in 1998, and currently has over 100 member states.
Like Russia, the US also signed the treaty but declared in 2002 that they had "no intention" of ratifying it.
Last Tuesday, the UN General Assembly's Human Rights Committee approved a resolution condemning Russia's "occupation" of Crimea and Sevastopol, and blamed Russia for discrimination against Crimean residents, as well as rights abuses.
Last Monday, the ICC issued a preliminary report describing the events in Crimea as "an international armed conflict between the Ukraine and the Russian Federation."
Russia is also under continuous threat of sanctions and being sued in the ICC, since they are carrying out airstrikes to help Syrian nationals fight ISIS.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia's withdrawal is an issue of "national interests" and explained Putin's decree as a mere formality, since the agreement was never ratified in the first place. He also said Crimea was not occupied but had joined Russia in March 2014 after a legitimate popular vote.
Though Russia does want international crimes dealt with in the ICC, the country is becoming increasingly frustrated with what it terms the ICC's ineffectiveness. They are also dissatisfied with how the ICC handled the 2008 five-day war in Georgia, claiming the court ignored continued aggression by Tbilisi against South Ossetia civilians.
"We can hardly trust the ICC in such a situation," a Russian spokesperson said.
"The court has unfortunately failed to match the hopes one had and did not become a truly independent and respected body of international justice," Russia's Foreign Ministry said, describing the ICC's work as "one-sided and inefficient."
"In these conditions one cannot speak of trust in the International Criminal Court," the ministry concluded.
In 14 years of work, only four verdicts have been passed, but the court has spent over $1 billion.
Russia is not the first to withdraw from the ICC, and will probably not be the last. Burundi withdrew in October 2016, followed a few days later by South Africa and Gambia.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte supported Putin's decision to leave the ICC and mentioned that he was considering a similar move.
"They withdrew their membership. I might follow," Duterte told the media. "Why? It's us small countries that get beaten up."
However, Duterte did not negate joining a new international body, headed by either Russia or China.
"If Russia or China will decide to create a new world order, I will be the first to join," Duterte said.
ICC spokesperson Fadi El-Abdallah said in a statement, "membership of the Rome Statute is a voluntary and sovereign decision which is the prerogative of all states." He also said "the ICC is respectful of each state's sovereignty."
Israel is not a member of the ICC and did not agree to ratify the Rome treaty, along with China, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen. However, the ICC accepted the Palestinian Authority as a member in 2015, although it is not an independent state. The PA hoped to be able to charge IDF officers for what they consider criminal actions on PA territory, but membership means that they, too, could be charged for human rights violations.
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