Russian President Vladimir Putin has introduced a bill in the State Duma which would have Russia withdraw from the international agreements to establish and recognize the credentials of the UN War Crimes Commission.
According to the document, which was published in the database of the lower chamber of parliament, Russia intends to rescind its recognition of one of the additional protocols of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which regulates the protection of civilians during wartime.
Article 90 of the first protocol of this convention establishes an international commission that has the competence to investigate alleged human rights violations in international armed conflicts.
The Soviet Union signed the protocol in 1977, simultaneously declaring its recognition of the commission’s competence.
However, the explanatory note for Putin’s new bill claims that “in the current international situation, the risk of the commission’s credentials being abused for political purposes by unscrupulous states is growing significantly”.
Since 1991, the commission has “effectively not performed its functions”, and there are no Russian representatives in it, although Russia regularly pays its annual contributions, and thus the “continued recognition of the commission’s competence does not seem appropriate,” the document reads.
The Russian government has prepared a positive response to the bill. Since Additional Protocol I of the convention was ratified by a plenum of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the decision to withdraw from the agreement must be registered in federal law.
In 1993, the UN Security Council included the Fourth Geneva Convention in the body of customary international law, which means that it is binding upon countries regardless of whether or not they have signed the document. All Geneva Conventions operate under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and obligate warring parties to distinguish between civilians and direct combat participants.