Sunday 11 December 2016

Russia pulls its support for international war crimes court

Roland Oliphant and Colm Kelpie

Published 17/11/2016 | 02:30

President Vladimir Putin 'wants to see Nato alliance destroyed'. Photo: Reuters
President Vladimir Putin 'wants to see Nato alliance destroyed'. Photo: Reuters

Russia has withdrawn all support for the International Criminal Court after its prosecutors said Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea could be classified as an act of war.

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Vladimir Putin signed an executive order withdrawing Russia's signature from the 2000 Rome Statute, which established the ICC to prosecute war crimes, citing "dissatisfaction" with the body's "one-sided and inefficient" work.

"The court did not live up to the hopes associated with it and did not become truly independent," Russia's foreign ministry said yesterday.

"It is revealing that in its 14 years of work the ICC has pronounced just four verdicts and spent over $1bn."

The ministry said it had lost trust in the court over its handling of an investigation into the five-day war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, saying that it had not properly investigated alleged Georgian crimes.

Human rights groups including Amnesty International condemned the move, which came on the opening day of the general assembly of ICC member states, as "completely cynical". The ICC's office of the prosecutor earlier said that the situation in Crimea "amounts to an international armed conflict" between Ukraine and Russia.

Russia is also under pressure over its role in Syria, where Western governments say it has committed war crimes by bombing civilians.

Meanwhile, a retired Nato general told a conference in Dublin yesterday that the West faces a greater threat of war with Russia than at almost any stage since the end of the Cold War.

Richard Shirreff, who served as Nato's deputy supreme allied commander in Europe between 2011 and 2014, said Mr Putin wants to see the destruction of the US-led military alliance.

He said the Russian president had started a dynamic that could put Russia on a collision course with Nato, given his actions in eastern Europe, and the build-up of Russian forces near the Baltic states.

A conflict would involve nuclear weapons, he added.

"The reality is that the west faces a greater threat of war with Russia than at almost any stage since the end of the Cold War and probably not since the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968," Mr Shirreff told a conference in Dublin organised by the Irish Association of Corporate Treasurers.

European powers have said they are concerned about what Donald Trump's election win will mean for the United States' commitment to Nato as the now president-elect said on the campaign that the US might not defend a Nato member who had not paid its contributions to the alliance.

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