On November 9, 2016, Russia announced its exit from the ICC (International Criminal Court). The departure was issued by a directive signed by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Russia’s foreign ministry justified this decision by stating, “The court did not live up to the hopes associated with it, and did not become truly independent.” And according to the Huffington post, “…the withdrawal is seen as a retaliation to the ICC, stating that the Kremlin’s actions in Crimea amount to an international conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The court’s report was enough to make Putin issue an executive order canceling Russia’s participation in the court altogether.”
After the Cold War, the ICC was created in hopes of prosecuting individuals who committed crimes concerning the international community. These offenses against the law include genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The ICC has the power to prosecute individuals, but not organizations or states. It is funded by the individual states that are a part of the Roman Statue, which was created on July 17, 1998, and established the ICC by a conference of 160 states. All states that signed the Statute are under the statute and are within the jurisdiction of the ICC. Currently, more than 120 states are bound to the Roman Statue. Russia signed the treaty in 2000, but never ratified the document.
Many countries have expressed their discontent with the ICC. For example, according to the Huffington Post, “In 2016, South Africa, Burundi and Gambia stated that they will withdraw membership… The reasons for these departures are more complicated than Russia’s. A number of African politicians have for years alleged that the ICC is biased against their continent, pointing out that all 39 of the court’s indictments have been of people from African nations.”
Experts state that Russia’s departure from the court will not have a significant impact. The director of the International Bar Association has stated, “Russia’s decision to ‘withdraw’ its signature from the Rome Statute will have little or no impact on the court. Contrary to the government’s statement, Russia has never engaged with the court in any meaningful way, and in fact, has violated the prohibited crimes provisions of the Statute through its military actions in both Georgia and Ukraine.”