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Russia withdraws backing for International Criminal Court treaty

Russian President Putin attends conference dedicated to anniversary of Sberbank in Moscow

President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on Wednesday withdrawing Russia’s signature from the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty, whose pronouncements Moscow has derided as one-sided.

The order, which took immediate effect, said Russia would not ratify the ICC’s founding treaty, something it signed in 2000.

Having not ratified the treaty in the first place, Moscow was not subject to the ICC’s jurisdiction anyway and its decision was therefore symbolic.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement the court had unfairly accused Russian forces involved in a brief 2008 war with Georgia. A report issued on Monday by the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor angered Moscow by referring to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea as an armed conflict.

Russia is also under international pressure over its campaign of air strikes in Syria with some human rights activists and US officials accusing it bombing civilians and civilian targets. Russia has denied those allegations.

“Unfortunately, the court has not justified the hopes attached to it and has not become a genuinely independent authoritative organ of international justice,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“It is revealing that in its 14 years of work the ICC has pronounced just four verdicts and spent over $1 billion.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the decision to withdraw Russia’s signature had been taken “in the national interest” and was a formality as it didn’t change anything as far as jurisdiction was concerned.

The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, was founded when 120 countries adopted the Rome Statute, its founding treaty, in 1998.

Born out of the Nuremburg trials after World War II and ad-hoc UN war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the ICC is the first legal body with permanent international jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Several African countries have recently said they are quitting the ICC, accusing it of bias.

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