February 12, 2024 - 17:57 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has pointedly declined to guarantee that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be arrested if he visits Armenia after the country’s recent accession to the International Criminal Court.
Armenia’s Constitutional Court gave the green light for the ratification last March one week after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin over war crimes allegedly committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow vehemently denies the accusations and claims that The Hague tribunal executes orders issued by Western governments.
Pashinian’s government pushed the treaty, also known as the Rome Statute, through the Armenian parliament in October, adding to its unprecedented tensions with Moscow. Russian officials said the “unfriendly” move will cause serious damage to Russian-Armenian relations. Still, Putin seemed to downplay the development afterwards, saying that he will visit the South Caucasus country again in the future.
In a weekend interview with Britain’s Telegraph daily, Pashinian was asked whether Putin would be arrested in case of such a trip.
“As regards legal subtleties, I cannot at the moment carry out legal analysis because that’s more the lawyers’ job,” he replied vaguely. “As I said, Armenia … must remain committed to all of its international commitments, including the commitments that it has in the relationship with the Russian Federation and international relations.”
Pashinian went on to claim that he is not the one who decides “whom to arrest and whom not to arrest” and that Armenian law-enforcement and courts make such decisions on their own.
Asked whether he would tell Putin “just don’t come because I can’t promise you that you won’t be arrested,” Pashinian said: “I don’t think that Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] needs my advice.”
Commenting on Pashinian’s remarks, Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday that the Russian leader would need to receive “certain assurances” before traveling to Armenia, RFE/RL’s Armenian service reports.
“This issue will have to be resolved within the framework of a bilateral dialogue, which is what we are intent on,” Peskov told reporters.
Pashinian also told the Telegraph that “quite a few lawyers” believe that serving heads of state have immunity from arrest warrants issued even by the ICC. Ara Ghazarian, a leading Armenian expert on international law, is not among them.
“Armenia and any other country [that has signed the Rome Statute] is legally obliged to arrest any person who is wanted by the court,” Ghazarian told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
The Pashinian government’s stated rationale for accepting the ICC’s jurisdiction is to take more legal action against Azerbaijan and prevent further Azerbaijani attacks on Armenia.
Armenian opposition politicians counter that Azerbaijan is not a party to the Rome Statute and would therefore ignore any pro-Armenian ruling by The Hague court. They say the real purpose of ratifying the treaty is to drive another wedge between Russia and Armenia and score points in the West.
The United States and the European Union swiftly praised Yerevan for ratifying the Rome Statute.