Armenian police officers block the entrance to government building during an opposition rally demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan due to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, in downtown Yerevan, Armenia, 30 September 2023. EFE-EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

Armenian parliament ratifies Rome Statute, allowing Putin’s arrest if he visits country

Yerevan, Oct 3 (EFE).- The Armenian parliament on Tuesday ratified the founding statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) amid growing tensions with Russia, even as the court at The Hague has a pending arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged war crimes in Ukraine.

Armenian anti-government demonstrators attend an opposition rally demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Pashinyan due to the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, in downtown Yerevan, Armenia, 30 September 2023. EFE-EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV

The bill to ratify the Rome Statute was passed with a 60-22 majority, the speaker of the national assembly Alen Simonyan, announced.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party enjoys an absolute majority in the house, ensuring the bill’s smooth passage.

However, the opposition refused to participate in the debate, which was held after the parliament’s judicial affairs commission approved the ratification last week.

The opposition’s Armenia Alliance claimed that the debate was unconstitutional as it was held without amending the constitution.

The Alliance’s secretary Artsvik Minasyan told reporters that the National Assembly did not have the authority to discuss the ratification of the Rome Statute without constitutional amendments, given the risks involved.

Meanwhile, Armenia’s international legal affairs representative Yeghishe Kirakosyan underlined that the nation’s constitutional court had declared in March that ratifying the statute would not violate the constitution.

Yerevan had joined the Rome Statute in Oct. 1, 1999 but so far had not ratified the founding statute of the United Nations body.

Once signed by the prime minister, the ratification law would come into effect within the next 60 days, turning Armenia into the 124th signatory of the Rome Statute.

Pashinyan had proposed the bill in the parliament on Sep. 13.

The PM has insisted that the decision has nothing to do with the deteriorating ties between Yerevan and Moscow and is related to Armenia’s security conundrum.

The ratification would allow Yerevan to approach The Hague with complaints against Azerbaijan, which it accuses of war crimes in the Nagorno Karabakh enclave.

After a lightening-quick military campaign by Azerbaijan in the self-proclaimed republic on Sep. 19-20, more than 100,000 of the around 120,000 ethnic Armenians living there have fled to Armenia.

However, ratifying the Statute would also make it mandatory for Armenia to execute its arrest warrants, including the one issued against Putin on Mar. 17 over the alleged illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.

Therefore. the latest step by Yerevan could further deteriorate its ties with Moscow, after it accused Russia of failing to protect Armenians from Azeri aggression despite agreements to this effect. .

Kirakosyan had explained recently that Armenia was set to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC retrospectively, from May 10, 2021.

He acknowledged that this had triggered unease in Russia and said that in April, Yerevan had proposed a bilateral agreement to Moscow over the implementation of the Rome Statute, in which both parties would commit to offering mutual guarantees over “issues of major concern.”

Last week, the Kremlin had warned that it would be “extremely hostile” on Yerevan’s part to ratify the ICC’s founding document.

“We certainly hope that such decisions will not negatively affect our bilateral relations, because here we are talking about a statute that we do not recognize, we are not a party to it. But these decisions are extremely hostile to us,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. EFE