The 2023 Decision of the Armenian Constitutional Court on the Rome Statute .Lousineh Hakobyan

The International Criminal Court investigates and tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community.

The Court is participating in a global fight to end impunity. Through criminal justice, the Court aims to hold those accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening in the future.

The Court, however, cannot reach these goals alone. As a court of last resort, it seeks to complement, not replace, national Courts. Governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent international criminal court.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted on 17 July 1998 in Rome at a diplomatic conference of the UN authorized representatives convened with a view to establishing the International Criminal Court and became effective on 1 July.

The Rome Statute grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main crimes. These are the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

The crime of genocide is characterized by the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The crimes against humanity are serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population. They include, for example, offences such as murder, rape, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, apartheid and deportation.

The war crimes are grave breaches of the Geneva conventions in the context of armed conflict and include, for instance, the use of child soldiers; the killing or torture of civilians or prisoners of war, intentionally directing attacks against hospitals, historic monuments, or buildings deicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes.

And finally, the crime of aggression is the use of armed forces by a State against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or independence of another State.

The Republic of Armenia signed the Rome Statute on 1 October 1999.

In 2004, the President applied to the Constitutional Court for a check of the constitutionality of the obligations stipulated in the Rome Statute. By its Decision No 502, the Constitutional Court concluded that the obligation whereby the International Criminal Court complements the RA domestic bodies competent to exercise criminal jurisdiction is contrary to the Armenian Constitution, since only domestic courts are competent to administer justice in Armenia. Hence, Chapter 9 of the RA Constitution related to the judiciary prevents complementing the judicial bodies exercising criminal jurisdiction with an international judicial body.

This decision rendered it impossible for the National Assembly of Armenia to ratify the Rome Statute.

And it was only 18 years later that the Government of Armenia resumed the discussions on the necessity to ratify the Rome Statute. On 29 December 2022, the Government approved of draft legislation whereby Armenia was retroactively recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in respect of the three crimes foreseen by the Rome Statute – genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – since 10 May 2021.

Following this, on 3 January 2023, the Government applied to the Constitutional Court on the issue of the constitutionality of the obligations stipulated in the Rome Statute.

On 24 March 2023, by its Decision no 1680 the Constitutional Court declared the obligations stipulated in the Rome Statute compliant with the Armenian Constitution.