Armenia commits to ensuring justice for victims by joining ICC

In response to the Coalition’s Campaign for Global Justice in Armenia, the Armenian government has committed to taking the necessary steps to become a member of the ICC.


April 2014 Campaign for Global Justice
In April 2014, the Coalition called onArmenia to render homage to victims of past crimes and ensure protection under the rule of law for future generations by joining the ICC.

In a letter addressed to President Serzh Sargsyan, the Coalition urged Armenia to ensure that its recently established Commission for Constitutional Reform consider amendments necessary to remove the legal preconditions for ratification of the Rome Statute stipulated in a 2004 Constitutional Court ruling:

“Armenia’s ratification of the Rome Statute is thus not only crucial for ensuring the global jurisdiction, legitimacy, and support for the Court but would also represent a firm commitment to eradicating the culture of impunity; advancing the principles of democracy, good governance, justice, and the rule of law; and ensuring justice for victims everywhere.” 

On 13 August 2004, Armenia’s Constitutional Court had ruled that the Statute was incompatible with the Armenian constitution on two grounds:

  • The ICC is seen as supplementing the national judicial system due to the Rome Statute’s principle of complementarity.
  • National authorities would be deprived of the right to grant pardons or amnesties.

The Court’s ruling has since blocked any advancement towards ratification.

Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, the Coalition’s regional coordinator for Europe: 

“Ten years have passed since the Armenian Constitutional Court ruled on the incompatibility of the Rome Statute. For a decade now, Armenia has sadly been absent from the developing architecture of an international justice system that seeks to acknowledge and redress the sufferings of victims of mass atrocities.”

In late 2013, however, Armenia began a constitutional review process to consider amendments to the constitution, and the Coalition has since urged Armenia to seize this opportunity to overcome the only legal obstacle to ratification of the Rome Statute.

Meersschaert Duchens: 

“The current process of constitutional review provides a long-awaited opportunity for the government to ensure that amendments are made to pave the way for ratification of the Statute, and we look forward to seeing proposals to that end.”

Armenia responds


On 30 April, the Coalition received a response to the campaign from Vigen Sargsyan, chief of staff of the president of Armenia:

“The issue of the ratification of the Rome Statute has been discussed by the Specialized commission on the Constitutional amendments and included in the draft strategy of Constitutional reforms.”

Point 2.6.4 of the draft strategy reads:

“The Constitutional reforms must also create modalities for the ratification of the ICC Statute signed by the Republic of Armenia in Rome on 17 July 1998, taking into consideration that in its Decision SDO-502 of 13 August 2004, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia found there to be certain incompatibilities between the aforementioned Statute and the RA Constitution.”

This development has been warmly welcomed by Armenian civil society.

Tatevik Gharibyan of Civil Society Institute Armenia:

“We are pleased to learn that the issue of Rome Statute ratification has been included in the Draft Concept Paper on Amendments to the Constitution, and we hope that it will receive the necessary future support and final approval to pave the way for Armenia’s membership in the ICC.”

Dr. Arman Sarvarian of the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom:

“The decision by the Commission on Constitutional Reform to recommend the adoption of a constitutional amendment is a critical first step to resume the road to ratification of the Rome Statute. The timing of its putative ratification, coinciding with the centenary commemoration of the Ottoman pogroms next year, would be a powerful statement that the Republic of Armenia opposes international crimes wherever they occur. Armenia’s participation in the Rome Statute system would be an important step in its continuing national development and would significantly contribute to the mission of the ICC system to end impunity for international crimes.”

Dr. Sarvarian was one of the principal organizers of a Coalition-sponsored, high-level conference in Yerevan in April 2013. The conference, entitled, Ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court by the Republic of Armenia: Problems and Process,” featured the participation of Deputy Justice Minister Aram Orbelyan, Deputy Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and former minister of justice and current member of the National Assembly of Armenia, Davit Harutyunyan.

The Conference, which coincided with the Coalition’s April 2013 Universal Ratification Campaign focus on Armenia, helped greatly to spur national reflection and debate on the issue of Armenia’s membership in the ICC.

Next steps
The final version of the Commission’s strategy of constitutional reforms is expected to be made public on 30 June.

Following submission of the reform package for the approval of President Sargsyan, the Commission will have another 10 months or so to draft specific constitutional amendments based on the approved strategy. As Armenia’s constitution can only be amended by national referendum, the specific amendments will likely be put to a popular vote in 2015.

It is hoped that, following a positive vote, the necessary amendments to the constitution can be made in the course of 2015, with ratification of the Rome Statute possibly following in late 2015 or early 2016.

Meersschaert Duchens:

“Armenia’s ratification of the Rome Statute would render homage to victims of the past as well as help prevent new victims in the future.  We look forward to seeing Armenia join the International Criminal Court in 2015/2016.”

For more information on Armenia and the ICC, follow our Europe regional coordinator, Kirsten Meersschaert Duchens, on Twitter.