Armenia's vice-speaker says Yerevan won't try to arrest Putin once it ratifies ICC statute

Armenia's vice-speaker says Yerevan won't try to arrest Putin once it ratifies ICC statute
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to be named in several war crimes cases because of atrocities committed by his army in Ukraine. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews April 3, 2023

Hakob Arshakyan, the Vice-President of the Armenian National Assembly, has said that the ruling Civil Contract party has no intention of arresting Russian President Vladimir Putin despite recent moves to ratify the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which has issued a warrant for him for war crimes.

The Kremlin had responded with threats of "serious consequences" if Yerevan ratifies the Rome Statute, calling it "absolutely unacceptable"against the backdrop of the ICC's recent "illegitimate" and "legally void" arrest warrants against the Russian leadership. Russia has strong economic, military, and political ties with Armenia, including a Russian military base in Gyumri.

The Russian Foreign Ministry's spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said that this topic is being discussed at a high level in Moscow and Yerevan.  She added that the ministry assumes this subject will be resolved in an allied and mutually acceptable way.

“We have heard the concerns expressed by Russia, and I think we can ensure that the continuation of the Rome Statute process does not harm the strategic relationship between Armenia and Russia,” Arshakyan said in an interview with Armenpress state news agency. 

In late 2022, the Armenian government asked the Constitutional Court to examine the constitutionality of the Rome Statute. According to the government, the ratification of this document will allow it to initiate legal proceedings against Azerbaijan for war crimes committed in Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia at the ICC.

Armenia signed the Rome Statute in 1998 but has not ratified it after the Constitutional Court in 2004 found that the treaty's obligations contradicted several provisions of the constitution in effect at the time.

On March 24, Armenia's Constitutional Court ruled significantly that the country can ratify the Rome Statute, which could potentially make Putin persona non grata in Armenia. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin on March 17 for war crimes in Ukraine. If Armenia ratifies the treaty, it would be obligated to arrest and extradite Putin to the Hague tribunal if he sets foot on Armenian soil.

Experts feared that Armenia would backtrack on the ratification of the statute, but it still went ahead. ​The situation has raised questions about where Armenia stands with regard to human rights and the rule of law. 

Armenia and Russia currently have a rocky relationship since Armenia says Russia continuously fails to fulfil its obligations as the security guarantor in the breakaway Azerbaijan territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.