International Criminal Court

The ad hoc international courts established in the 1990s to address the atrocity crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda served as inspiration for the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute, the court's foundational instrument, was approved in July 1998, and it officially opened for business in 2003.

Since then, the ICC has made strides in raising awareness of the necessity of accountability in cases resulting from investigations in the Central African Republic, Darfur, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. However, the court has had issues with performance, such as the prosecution's inability to provide enough evidence for convictions.

What is ICC?

An international court with its headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, is the International Criminal Court. It is the first and only permanent international court with the authority to try people for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression. It differs from the International Court of Justice, a body of the United Nations that adjudicates conflicts between states.

  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) has come under fire from governments and civil society for a variety of reasons, including claims of bias, racism, and Eurocentrism, as well as concerns about the fairness of its case-selection and trial processes.

  • It has also been praised as a significant step towards justice and as an innovation in international law and human rights.

Structure of ICC

An international court known as the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established by the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty. The Hague, in the Netherlands, is home to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is independent of the UN but may hold hearings overseas.

These are the four main organs of the ICC.

Although it is not an arm of the Court, the Assembly of States Parties acts as the administrative, judicial, and legislative body for the Court. In accordance with the Rome Statute, it establishes the budget, chooses judges and prosecutors, modifies the law and procedure, and carries out other tasks.

The Trust Fund for Victims, which was established by the Assembly of States Parties (in accordance with Article 79 of the Rome Statute) to assist and support victims of Rome Statute crimes and their families as well as to assist in carrying out court-ordered reparations, is also distinct from the Court. The Trust Fund for Victims works to alleviate the immediate harms caused by atrocity crimes in an effort to foster restorative justice, reconciliation, and lasting peace.

Operation of the Court

The Rome Statute, a multilateral agreement that acts as the ICC's charter and governing document, went into effect on July 1, 2002, and the court officially started operating on that date. States that ratify the Rome Statute become members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and sit on the Assembly of States Parties, which oversees the court.

There are 123 ICC member nations as of March 2022; 42 governments have not ratified the Rome Statute or joined it as parties.

The ICC supplements the current national judicial systems and is meant to act as the "court of last resort."

  • It can only exercise jurisdiction when national courts are unwilling or unable to pursue criminals.

  • It lacks universal geographical jurisdiction and is only permitted to look into and bring cases involving crimes committed within member states, crimes committed by citizens of member states, or crimes that the UN Security Council has referred to the Court.

Role of ICC

The Hague, a Dutch city that is home to several international organizations, serves as the headquarters of the ICC, which also maintains field offices in a number of other nations. The prosecutor's office, overseen since 2021 by British attorney Karim A. A. Khan, a former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, conducts the court's investigations.

According to international law, the court has jurisdiction over the following four types of crimes −

  • Genocide, or the deliberate targeting of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group, in whole or in part;

  • The use of child soldiers, torture, and attacks on civilian targets like hospitals or schools are all considered war crimes, or serious violations of the rules of war;

  • Murder, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and torture are examples of crimes against humanity or breaches carried out as part of widespread attacks against civilian populations;

  • Infractions of the UN Charter, acts of aggression, or the use or threat of armed force by one state against the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or political independence of another state


The ICC should deliberate on international crimes, but there is disagreement about whether it should have universal jurisdiction or a system of state consent. In accordance with the State Consent Framework, the Court cannot exercise its jurisdiction without first securing the territorial and custodial consent of other States. To try someone accused of committing war crimes, however, any state is permitted under the prevailing principle of universal jurisdiction, and no other state's permission is necessary.

This principle emphasizes the ingrained belief that individuals responsible for the commission of war crimes must answer for their actions and be brought before the law, not only because they are war criminals but also because they are not above the law.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What authority does the ICC possess?

Ans. The Rome Statute mandates that each state exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those who commit transnational crimes. The International Criminal Court may only intervene in cases when a state is incapable or unwilling to conduct an accurate investigation and bring the criminals to justice.

Q2. What serves as the International Criminal Court's purpose?

Ans. A person suspected of committing a crime against humanity, a war crime, or genocide is brought before the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Q3. Which countries are members of the court?

Ans. The Rome Statute has 123 countries as parties. China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are among the forty nations that never ratified the agreement. The statute was signed by many dozen additional people, but their legislatures never ratified it. They include Sudan, Syria, the United States, Egypt, Iran, Israel, and Russia.

Q4. What cases has the ICC opened?

Ans. Almost forty people, all from African nations, have been charged by the ICC. There have been 17 people imprisoned at The Hague; 10 have been found guilty of crimes, and four have been found not guilty.

Updated on: 06-Apr-2023


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