The entrance of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. Photo by Jerry Lampen/Reuters

Russia withdraws from international war crimes court

Russia formally withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Wednesday with a decree from President Vladimir Putin.

The decision follows an ICC report released Monday that mounts a legal argument for alleged crimes Russia committed during the conflict in Ukraine.

The Crimean conflict began “when the Russian Federation deployed members of its armed forces to gain control over parts of the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian Government” in February 2014, according to the report.

The Russian government has countered that description of the events. Putin did not admit Russian forces were operating in Ukraine until last December and blames Kiev for ongoing instability.

The ICC’s self-described role is to investigate and try individuals responsible for “the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.” AFP called the ICC “the world’s only permanent war crimes court.”

The Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it signed on to the court in 2000 with “high hopes.” But the court “failed to meet the expectations to become a truly independent, authoritative international tribunal,” the statement said.

Three African countries — Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa — also signaled last month they would exit the court. They said the court was biased against the continent, prosecuting African leaders more often than those from other countries.

Monday’s report not only critiqued Russia, but also suggested the ICC would investigate alleged acts of torture committed by U.S. armed forces and the CIA in Afghanistan.

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