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MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) – A Russian lawyer said Tuesday that he had asked the Investigative Committee to start criminal proceedings against US President Barack Obama on charges of planning a “war of aggression,” but most Russian experts doubted the case would go anywhere.
Lawyer Alexander Zorin has called for a probe into Obama’s actions on charges of “planning and preparing for a war of aggression,” an article in the Russian Criminal Code that carries a prison sentence of up to 20 years, he told the RAPSI legal news agency.
The lawyer claims that within the framework of international law there are virtually no instruments for holding Obama to account, because in 2002 the US revoked its signature from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
“Under the pretext of protecting its military servicemen, the US has completely abandoned participation in the Rome Statute, describing it as being in violation of US interests and sovereignty,” Zorin said.
However, arguing that “no political, economic or any other considerations may serve to justify aggression,” Zorin asked the Investigative Committee to give a legal assessment of Obama’s actions.
The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Wednesday to give Obama the authority to use military force against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack last month. A US intelligence report claims that the Assad regime was behind a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on August 21 that Washington says left more than a thousand civilians dead.
Experts interviewed by RAPSI cast doubt on the legal prospects for Zorin’s case against Obama, with most of them saying the investigative authorities of one country have no right to initiate a criminal case against the president of another state.
Lawyer Alexander Arutyunov said Zorin’s move was a publicity stunt, adding that his petition would be looked into and dismissed.
Arutyunov’s position was shared by another legal expert, Sergei Zhorin, who said such matters are dealt with by specialized international organizations, not individuals.
“Clearly, the Investigative Committee will not initiate any criminal proceedings, and this is just a waste of time,” he said.
Lawyer Vasily Burdyug agreed, saying Zorin’s move is populist and “has no legal sense.”
“The rules of international law prohibit the initiation of criminal proceedings against military servicemen [the head of state being such]; the only exception is a war crime,” he said.
“However, preparation for war is not a crime: All states in some way or another prepare for war – training troops, buying weapons.”
Even if there is an element of crime in Obama’s actions, the Russian Criminal Code does not apply to him, legal expert Lyudmila Aivar said.
“Even if Obama did something unlawful in Russia, he enjoys presidential immunity,” Aivar said.
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Russia has become very adept in playing the diplomatic game, in which victory depends on choosing the right associate or partner. But there are a growing number of claimants to this role in the new horizontal and interdependent world. Aside Syria and Iran, being still important, the new venues for the application of practical diplomacy may well be Ukraine, the East China Sea and Afghanistan.