Vladimir Putin withdrew Russia’s support of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday due to its bias against non-Western nations.
The ICC was set up in 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in order to prosecute individuals for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
However, the court has come under heavy criticism from various African nations who say the court is persecuting African leaders without any evidence.
Now, Russia has joined a growing list of countries that have quit the ICC.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the United Nations General Assembly’s human rights committee approved a resolution condemning Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea, blaming Russia for rights abuses such as discrimination against some Crimean residents, more notably, the Tatars.
Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014 from Ukraine, following a referendum. Residents in Crimea had voted overwhelmingly to join the Russian Federation, breaking away from Ukraine. This infuriated the West. Lead by the United States, they slapped Russia with sanctions that have proved ineffective.
The ICC on Monday Nov. 14, issued a preliminary report describing the Crimea situation as an international armed conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. By this report, the ICC is looking for an opportunity to investigate what has happened, and still is happening in Eastern Ukraine, where separatist rebels are fighting the Ukrainian army to break away from Ukraine.
But Russia dismissed the ICC’s accusations of an armed conflict in Crimea, arguing that Crimea joined Russia after a legitimate popular vote.
The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, explained that the withdrawal of Russia’s signature from the ICC was done purely on national interests. He further stated that since Russia never ratified the Rome Statute establishing the court, the decree signed by Putin was just a mere formality.
The Russian foreign Ministry also said in a statement that the country is not abandoning the court because of international efforts to punish anybody who has committed grave crimes against humanity. Rather, according to the ministry, the ICC has become biased and a financial burden to the global community. The ministry assured Russian commitment to ensuring that everyone and anyone implicated in grave international crimes still faces justice.
“The court has unfortunately failed to match the hopes one had and did not become a truly independent and respected body of international justice,” the ministry said, adding that in the ICCs’ 14 years of work “only four verdicts” have been passed while $1 billion was spent on expenses.
Russia’s withdrawal from the ICC has provided substance to the African nations who claim the court is biased. Russia’s exit will surely open the door for more nations to leave the court, ultimately leading to a potential collapse of the entire system.