Twenty-five years after signing the Rome Statute, Armenia ratified its membership of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday. At a time when the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has been annexed, and Armenia is in turn openly threatened by Azerbaijan and Turkey who are eyeing its southern border to connect their two countries, the Armenian Parliament, by 60 votes to 22, expressed itself in favor of definitive accession to the independent jurisdiction. A decision that French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, visiting Yerevan, welcomed. “The fight against impunity for crimes is a condition for peace and stability,” she recalled on X, (formerly Twitter).
According to Yerevan, this accession makes it possible to grant “additional guarantees for Armenia” against Azerbaijan, argued Tuesday, Eghiche Kirakosian, an official responsible for international justice affairs. A potential invasion of Armenia “will (now) fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC”, which will have a “deterrent effect”, he explained at the opening of the parliamentary session.
In fact, “the ratification of the Rome Statute by Armenia gives it the possibility of bringing possible crimes committed against its nationals before the ICC, if it cannot do so before its own courts,” explains Yves-Marie Dupuy, specialist in public international law. But only acts committed in Armenia come under the jurisdiction of the ICC. However, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which announced its dissolution on January 1, 2024, after the Baku blitzkrieg, is not part of the territory of Armenia. And Azerbaijan, which now controls the enclave, is not party to the Rome Statute.
Armenia's act is therefore more of a strategic reaction, believes Yves-Marie Dupuy. With this accession, Yerevan marks an unprecedented distance from Russia, since Armenia is now required to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin, the subject of an arrest warrant, if he were to visit its territory. If this obligation is relative - President Lula warned in September that Putin will not be arrested if he comes to the next G20 summit in Brazil, although party to the Treaty of Rome - it marks a clear break between the former Soviet republic and Moscow, linked for 30 years by the OTSC collective security treaty which commits Russia to protecting its neighbors in the event of territorial aggression.
It has been several months since the Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinian, feeling abandoned by the Kremlin, tried to get closer to the West. If he insisted that this ratification was not aimed at Russia, but that it was necessary to guarantee that his country was protected by international law against Azerbaijan, unsurprisingly, Moscow reacted strongly. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized the "wrong" decision, saying he doubted whether it was "correct from the point of view of bilateral relations."
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“It is an extremely dangerous bet, because Armenia is adding fuel to the fire in its bilateral relationship with Moscow,” analyzes geopolitologist Tigran Yegavian. “We must understand that Armenia is walking on a tightrope: each misstep can be fatal. All strategic industries, electricity, gas, were sold to the Russians by the former Armenian government. 95% of the Armenian forces' weapons come from Moscow. In view of this economic, energy and defense dependence on Russia, Armenia still has a lot to lose,” underlines the geopolitologist. “When you have no leverage, realpolitik recommends keeping quiet.”
On the Western side, several voices welcomed Armenia's decision, including the high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell. “Each accession to the Rome Statute brings the international community closer to universal participation and strengthens the common desire to end impunity,” he said in a statement. “At a time when serious abuses are at risk of being committed around the world, Armenia's decision to ratify the Treaty of Rome sends a strong message that the era of absolute impunity for these crimes is coming to an end,” the NGO Human Rights Watch also declared this Wednesday.