Russia withdrawing from agreement on protection of civilians during war

Vladimir Putin has asked the State Duma to endorse the withdrawal from the Additional Protocols of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) signed by the Soviet Union.

The two protocols place the signatories under the obligation to protect civilians during armed conflicts and provide that a special commission would deal with violations.

In 1977, the USSR signed two additional protocols that stated that the protection of civilians would also be held during ‘armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes’. Another signed protocol concerned internal fighting that involved separatist forces ‘remaining under responsible command and exercising such control over part of its territory’.

According to the Russian side, the intention stems from ‘the significantly increased risk in the current international situation’ and ‘the risk of abuse of the commission’s powers for political purposes by unscrupulous countries’. The document does not specify which risks and countries are meant.

Although the country pays annual fees to the commission’s budget, Russian representatives are not part of it, officials complain.

In 2016, Russia pulled out of the agreement on establishing the International Criminal Court; its main task is the investigation into war crimes. The Kremlin made such a move after the court prosecutor Fatou Besounda defined the annexation of Crimea as a Ukrainian-Russian conflict, which should be considered through the prism of the law on armed conflicts.

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