Citing it straight from the horse's mouth, @ Tass

The International Criminal Court (ICC), which is ready to exercise pseudo-justice on the orders of the West, has proved its inferiority, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzya said speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council.

"This biased, politicized and incompetent international court has once again proved its inferiority. The ICC is a puppet in the hands of the collective West, which is always ready to exercise pseudo-justice on order," he stressed.

Here's a list of current judges, which doesn't give any particular indication of that claim. I would also add that the USA's relationship with the ICC isn't exactly close, bringing this statement in question.

Have Russian politicians articulated how a court put in place by neutral international bodies is inherently anti-Russia? And what mechanisms the West uses to control it?

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    I upvoted, it seem a reasonable Q to ask. Although you can probably expect some cherry picking of the facts in any answer that would support this, so I'm not entirely sure of the ultimate value of answering just as asked. But I do ask such Qs myself sometimes, since the propaganda machinery is sometime obscure, e.g. politics.stackexchange.com/questions/78250/… Mar 18, 2023 at 4:21
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    @Fizz I think the problem with this Q is that it fits the "I actually know the answer, but I ask anyway because I want to herald/promote/emphasize it" profile.
    – Greendrake
    Mar 18, 2023 at 4:54
  • @Greendrake "Why ask?" Good question. It's not the most useful exercise because it's kind of clear what the answer will be but just for documentation purposes one wants to write it down explicitly so that in case somebody would say that Russias actions are reasonable you can point to a couple of things that clearly say otherwise. However that also becomes boring very quickly. Wasting time and energy on destructive stuff doesn't bring anyone forward. Mar 18, 2023 at 7:19
  • @Greendrake It is my personal opinion that even if a question is asked here with an ulterior motive (as you posit about this Q), it shouldn't be deleted but countered with good answers - the questions aren't as important as the answers (and we can always edit the Q to tone down any propaganda). Anyway, your opposition to it suggests that you don't agree with the Q and feel it shouldn't be publicised. Do you really think it is a good idea if mods delete questions that they don't politically agree with? Different political views exists, and the cultural and political differences are a reality.
    – sfxedit
    Mar 19, 2023 at 21:36
  • @sfxedit My opposition to the Q is driven merely by the prima facie ulteriorness of its motive, not by what the motive itself is. This site often closes/deletes questions that lack "good faith" or where "the primary purpose ... appears to be to promote or discredit ...". So, I stand for either applying those criteria consistently regardless of what political cause the questions seem to support, or for removing those criteria i.e. allowing all such questions.
    – Greendrake
    Mar 20, 2023 at 4:53

3 Answers 3


"It is especially cynical that legally insignificant decisions ... were made public on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the US illegal invasion of Iraq, where the ICC had jurisdiction, but did nothing to bring the perpetrators to responsibility," Nebenzya said.

That's one public statement from a Russian official, in the article you cited in the question, expressing cynicism on why the Russians don't have much faith in the ICC.

A major reason why it is perceived to be a "western" institution is because it is not part of the United Nations - European nations are its most staunch advocates and supporters. In fact, it is an EU requirement for a member state to have ratified the "Rome Statute" - meaning signing to become a member of ICC and accepting its jurisdiction by passing a national legislation:

All Member States have ratified the Rome Statute. ...

The principles of the Rome Statute, as well as those governing the functioning of the International Criminal Court (hereinafter the ‘ICC’), are fully in line with the principles and objectives of the Union ... The Union is convinced that universal accession to the Rome Statute is essential for the full effectiveness of the ICC ... Council Decision 2011/168/CFSP

African states too were vocal advocates for the ICC and played a big role in its creation. But after the establishment of the court, it has become quite cynical of it claiming that only African black leaders are being specifically targeted by the ICC (which they also accuse of being a "European court"):

Increasingly, more and more African nations are expressing their dissatisfaction with the operations of the court... criticism directed at the ICC by Africans is that the court has tended to focus almost exclusively on Africans and — more specifically — black Africans...

A common criticism of the ICC by Africans is that the court is subject to political manipulation... Recent data show that about 60 percent of ICC funding comes from the European Union. Like other international organizations, it is claimed that there is a close relationship between funding and influence over the activities undertaken by the court.

A related concern is that the West also holds influence in that most of the substantive appointments — the key positions that are responsible for investigations and the preparation of cases — are overwhelmingly staffed by members of the European Union. For the ICC, there is a tight relationship between funding and staffing. This close relationship has raised justified concerns that the court is a tool of the EU, which, unfortunately, reinforces the “new colonialism” sentiments. - Can the International Criminal Court play fair in Africa?

In the middle-east, Palestinians too have become disillusioned and frustrated with the ICC (Palestine is a member state of ICC):

[ICC prosecutor] Khan’s office has “an ongoing investigation with jurisdiction over Palestine that goes back to 2014”, he stressed. One cannot help but ask how the ICC managed to find Russia guilty of war crimes in Ukraine and issue an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin within a year - yet after nine years, there seems to be no urgency to complete the investigation of Israel’s recurrent war crimes and bring the perpetrators to trial.

Ironically, the concerns voiced by the Russian are actually similar to what the United States also once publicly said:

Although initially a supporter of the proposed Court, the Clinton Administration did not sign the treaty at the Rome conference because of a variety of concerns, including a concern that the treaty contained insufficient protection against politicized prosecutions.

("Politicized prosecution" is precisely what the Russians feel is happening today against Russia / Putin. A good analysis on the legal objections that the US had against the ICC is here - The International Criminal Court's antagonism toward our Constitution).

Despite the US hostility towards ICC holding a trial for any Israeli or American for war crimes or genocide, the US hasn't had any problem in using the ICC for their own political needs:

In 2005, the Bush administration allowed the Security Council to refer the Darfur case, and it later offered to assist the court’s investigation ... In 2011, the Barack Obama administration voted in favour of the Security Council referral for a Libya investigation. It also helped deliver several fugitives to The Hague and offered to pay millions of dollars as rewards for information on individuals accused of atrocities. The Role of the International Criminal Court

But when the ICC wanted to try US personnels for crimes in Afghanistan, or Israel for their activity in Palestine, President Trump even tried to sanction ICC.

Now, in the context of the Russian - Ukraine war, and Biden's proclamation that Putin is a war criminal, some US politicians have even introduced a resolution in the US Senate advocating for Putin (and other Russian officials) to be investigated and tried in the ICC:

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) strongly condemns the ongoing violence, war crimes, crimes against humanity ...

(2) encourages member states to petition the ICC and the ICJ to authorize any and all pending investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian Armed Forces and their proxies and President Putin's military commanders, at the direction of President Vladimir Putin;

(3) supports any investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity, and systematic human rights abuses levied by President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Security Council, the Russian Armed Forces and their proxies, and President Putin's military commanders...

In this background of EU backing of the ICC, the criticism of the African Union of ICC being "European" and biased against them, the disillusion of the Palestinians and hypocrisy of the US advocating for Russians to be tried in ICC despite their own antagonism towards the ICC, it should be easy to understand why the Russians view it with such cynicism and call it a "puppet of the west".

Also, the claim that the ICC is neutral because of the number of judges of different nationalities is a bit politically naive when each of these judges can (and will) act on their national interest - they are, after all, political appointees of their nation-state. Thus, there is a real possibility that the judges can be politically influenced through their country. This is important as only two-thirds majority is required for conviction in the ICC.

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    Honestly, the US is weirdly hypocritical about the ICC. The Hague Invasion Act of 2002 is polar opposite to the EU. About 20 years after it was passed, a bill was introduced to repeal it that failed. So its a little weird to see the US using and encouraging the ICC. Good link for you: 2001-2009.state.gov/t/pm/rls/othr/misc/23425.htm
    – David S
    Mar 21, 2023 at 18:20
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    @DavidS: yeah, but saying the ICC is an "EU puppet", which is closer to the truth, doesn't so good on Russian TV, because the EU is only "Little Satan" (equivalent) for them. (OTOH Israel-friendly sources have no qualms emphasizing the EU angle. israelhayom.com/2021/02/12/the-iccs-european-puppet-masters) Mar 29, 2023 at 21:12
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    @Fizz It could be because the ICJ is the judicial organ of the UN, where as the ICC is legally and functionally independent from the United Nations, and is not a part of the UN system - un.org/en/global-issues/international-law-and-justice ... Russia is pro-UN.
    – sfxedit
    Mar 30, 2023 at 4:27
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    Of course, there is no way the ICC might be picky on Africa because some African leaders are prone to persecuting their own people. No sir. The average citizens of countries in Africa are well-served by democratically elected leaders that never mistreat their flocks and are held to account by independent national courts. This is well known. Ask any African woman or man on the street and they have no concerns here, at all. And Milosevic & co bucking the trend are also indicators of EU bias. Not Srebenica! No! Correlation is pure coincidence here. Mar 30, 2023 at 22:41
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica Sure. But one cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that many European countries have a major stake in Africa and have bankrolled rebels and private armies to protect their interest and indulged in human rights violation too. The main point of the African Union is that the EU selectively targets African leaders, not just for justice but for political benefit too - i.e. regime change. After China's success in Africa, and EU and US losing out, there is definitely some merit to that argument. And note that these allegations are from the AU, not one or two leaders.
    – sfxedit
    Mar 31, 2023 at 1:50

Modern Russian political climate has great emphasis on Cui prodest? thinking.

Such as, if there is a court ruling which is significantly beneficial to the interests of one of parties, the first thing you need to assume that the court is under influence of that party.

Russians in general are highly suspicious about any claims about Justice being served. In their opinion, the jugdes of international courts are in either for direct monetary compensation; or for being recognized as loyal and having better career prospects later on; and the last one, "useful idiots" who were bullshitted into yielded the desired result without any apparent gain.

So in this case, if there's an significant anti-Russian movement of the court, the court must be influenced by the West.

Addressing some of the comments to the question: "If there would be a ruling against USA in the ICC". First of all, USA threatened to intervene if ICC does that. Secondly, there aren't, even though quite a few of US war crimes were documented, often by the USA itself. And third of all, it is likely that Russia will be benefitting from that, or maybe inspired such ruling in the first place, so of course Russia will be praising objectivity of the ICC in this case.

Need to say, these views have good grounding in reality, such as seeing how the USA fails to address the origins of COVID or the apparent lack of objective investigations around Nordstream sabotage.

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    So, basically, a) Russians dont tend to trust courts all that much, esp. if rulings are against Russia b) the US also tends to "disrespect" the ICC itself - and US politicians hardly bother to, as per this Q, issue much justification about it c) ICC actions have been alleged to be "selective" in the past. Fair enough, accepted. FWIW African countries have long complained about ICC. See indictments issued. Of course, that may indicate bias. Or places where most ICC crimes get committed. Mar 20, 2023 at 22:44
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    the Covid reference seems irrelevant unless once subscribes to US weapons labs conspiracy theories. For the latest and greatest theory, it's not the US Dept of Energy somehow "knowing" about Chinese labs. It's raccoon dogs Mar 20, 2023 at 22:48
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    btw "USA threatened to intervene" = "USA threatened to invade the Netherlands". Presumably, the ICC would not make any judgements against Russia if Russia also plausibly threatened to invade the Netherlands. Mar 30, 2023 at 11:01

The sequence of argumentation seems reverse to expected: the ICC is the fake court because its verdict is completely unacceptable, and why to arrest the head of the state looks unacceptable for the representatives of that state, is it I assume obvious.

So "these are fake bees hence they bring the fake honey" (details here) or otherwise probably The Fox and the Grapes fallacy, assuming grapes = somewhat better verdict from this court.

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