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Putin orders Russia to withdraw from ICC

The decision comes after several critics of Russia have claimed that its military should be referred to the ICC for its conduct in Syria.

FILE: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered that his country’s signature to the International Criminal Court (ICC) must now be withdrawn.

The decision comes after several critics of Russia have claimed that its military should be referred to the ICC for its conduct in Syria.

Putin signed an executive order on Wednesday afternoon, withdrawing Russia’s signature from the ICC's founding treaty, whose pronouncements Moscow has dismissed as one-sided.

The order, which takes immediate effect, says Russia will not ratify the ICC's founding treaty, something it signed in 2000.

The Russian foreign ministry says the court has unfairly accused Russian forces involved in a brief 2008 war with Georgia.

A report issued this week by the ICC's office of the prosecutor also 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 of bombing civilians and civilian targets.

Russia will be the fourth country to leave the ICC in recent weeks, after South Africa, Burundi and Gambia withdrew from the Rome Statute.

South Africa's Justice Minister Michael Masutha presented a bill in Parliament to repeal the country’s membership of the ICC, which the government has said clashes with diplomatic immunity laws.

Pretoria last year announced its intention to leave after the ICC criticised it for disregarding an order to arrest Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during a visit to South Africa.

Bashir faces charges of orchestrating genocide and war crimes, charges that he dismisses.

“At the end of this proceedings we will be tabling the notice of withdrawal that South Africa lodged with the secretary general of the United Nations,” Masutha told legislators during a debate on the ICC.

South Africa and Burundi have officially notified the United Nations of their intent to withdraw from the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing The Hague-based court.

The withdrawals will take effect in October 2017.

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)

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