Armenia ratifies Rome Statute despite Russian threats

Armenia ratifies Rome Statute despite Russian threats
The opposition boycotted the vote in the Armenian Parliament. / Marcin Konsek / Wikimedia Commons
By Ani Avetisyan October 3, 2023

The Armenian Parliament ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on October 3, making it the 124th member state of the statute. Armenia’s parliamentary opposition voted against the bill, claiming it was "unconstitutional". 

The vote, with 60 votes in favour and 22 against, comes after persistent warnings from Moscow, which had hoped that in its final stage the parliament would oppose it.

Moscow’s opposition to the statute has a long past, yet most recently the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine.  As per the ICC regulations, following the March warrant, any member states must detain Putin if he enters their territory. Armenian officials had assured Russia they could bypass the order through bilateral agreements, allowing Putin to visit Armenia without arrest, though it is not clear whether this would work.

Yerevan claimed that the ratification was not against Russia and that the decision was solely in the interest of the country’s security and the desire to take Azerbaijan to the International Criminal Court for war crimes and other violations. Yerevan claims that there are Azerbaijani troops inside Armenia’s territory, positioned there since last spring, in violation of international law. 

Yerevan’s assurances and explanations were not enough for Moscow, as it kept warning of “negative” consequences  for months. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov stated that Moscow would see the ratification as an “extremely hostile” move towards Russia. 

Tensions between Armenia and Russia have escalated in recent years for different reasons, including Russia's failure to prevent the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020 and Armenia’s unmet requests for military assistance during Azerbaijan’s 2022 attack. Russia keeps military bases in Armenia.

Following Azerbaijan’s attack on Nagorno-Karabakh in September, while Russian peacekeepers stood aside, and the mass exodus of the region’s local Armenian population, the tensions between Russia and Armenia have grown dramatically.  Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan indirectly accused Moscow of fuelling Armenia's political turmoil and criticised Russia for not fulfilling “diplomatic norms” and “obligations”.

Armenia accused Russia of distancing itself from the region, or even “leaving it”, in response to allegations that Yerevan might decide to cut ties with Russia and its CSTO military alliance.