Armenia votes to join International Criminal Court

By Mark Dovich

Armenia’s single-chamber parliament on Tuesday voted 60-22 to join the International Criminal Court, ignoring repeated and unusually strong warnings from Russia about the consequences of joining the Hague tribunal.

The vote to ratify the Rome Statute went down along party lines, with all 60 ‘yes’ votes coming from members of the ruling Civil Contract, and all 22 ‘no’ votes coming from the opposition Armenia and I Have Honor blocs.

Reacting to the news, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said, “We still believe that this is an incorrect decision…We will have additional questions for Armenia’s current leadership.”

Meanwhile, Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, accused Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of taking “decisions of national importance…without considering public opinion.”

For their part, the United States indicated it “respects Armenia’s sovereignty and independence,” while the European Union said it “welcomes” the move.

What’s the context?

Yerevan says it joined the tribunal so it can potentially take Baku to court over alleged human rights abuses and war crimes.

At the same time, membership in the court, which issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, means Armenia may be expected to detain Putin and extradite him to the Hague should he try to visit the country.

However, Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Armenia’s point person for international legal matters, has insisted the Rome Statute does not preclude Yerevan from signing a bilateral agreement with Moscow to provide legal immunity to foreign heads of state.

In the run-up to the vote, Moscow repeatedly pressured Yerevan not to move forward with joining the tribunal, with Peskov and other senior officials warning of “the most negative consequences” and calling Armenia’s potential membership in the court “extremely hostile” and “unacceptable.”