International Criminal Law (ICL)

The best way to understand international criminal law is as an effort by the world community to address the worst atrocities. It has not been an excellent weapon to draw the minute and nuanced distinctions typical of national law, for they transfer focus from those big-scale atrocities that "shock the conscience" with which it is concerned. As a result, there are major analytical discrepancies between the legal systems, particularly with regard to the notion of legal intent.

What does is International Criminal Law (ICL) Define?

Public international law includes international criminal law. It is the compilation of laws, agreements, and conventions that control international crimes and their abolition, as well as regulations that address conflict and cooperation within national criminal-law systems.

  • Antisocial behavior is prohibited and punished under criminal law. Because each country's laws reflect its values, there are sometimes significant discrepancies between national laws, both in terms of the nature of the crimes and the permissible sanctions.

The majority of international laws relate to interstate commerce, whereas international criminal law focuses on individuals. International criminal law forbids and penalizes unlawful behavior but holds individuals, not nations or organizations, liable. Liability, defenses, evidence, court procedures, punishment, victim involvement, witness protection, mutual legal help, and cooperation are all aspects of international criminal law that have rules, strategies, and concepts.

Basically, "international criminal law" relates to three key legal disciplines.

Jurisdiction of International Criminal Law

According to Article 5 of the ICC Statute, the Court has jurisdiction over crimes of aggression, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

In Articles 6 to 8, these offenses are described "for the purpose of the law." The Components of Crime, which were established in September 2002 at the first session of the Assembly of State Parties, govern how these offenses are to be interpreted.

  • Article 11(1) state that the Court lacks retroactive jurisdiction over offenses committed prior to the statute's effective date of July 1, 2002.

  • Article 24(1), which states that no individual shall be held responsible under this Act for conduct done before the coming into effect of the ICC Statute, strengthens this principle of non-retroactivity.

  • According to Article 25 of the Statute, only natural persons are subject to the ICC's jurisdiction. The alleged offender must have been at least 18 years old when the offense was allegedly committed.

Sources of ICL

The origins of ICL are basically the same as those of public international law because it is a subset of that body of law.

In general, international and hybrid criminal tribunals consult the following five sources of ICL −

The sources of law sometimes interact and overlap one another. For instance, the development of customary international law may reflect, become, or be influenced by a treaty, and vice versa. The development of treaties and customary international law may be impacted by an international court's decision. In addition to their own governing documents, international and hybrid courts typically rely on treaties and custom as the primary sources of international criminal law (which may include treaties).

According to Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is a classic statement of the sources of international law, the five sources of ICL essentially correspond to the following −

  • Global or specific treaties setting guidelines that opposing states officially recognize;

  • International custom, which serves as proof of a widespread practice recognized as legal;

  • The universal rules of law accepted by developed countries;

  • As auxiliary tools for establishing legal principles, court rulings, and the teachings of the world's best public intellectuals


Since it strives to penalize violations of fundamental human rights, including life, liberty, and security in general, international criminal law is a crucial topic that deals with the protection of international human rights. Despite the fact that the precise definition of an international crime is still up for debate, it is generally accepted that an international crime is any action that endangers the fundamental interests of the international community and exposes the perpetrator to criminal culpability.

Genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression are the main types of international crimes. Like regular criminal law, international criminal law establishes specific behavior prohibitions and associated punishments.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is International Criminal Law?

Ans. The corpus of rules that govern international crimes and their repression, as well as those that deal with cooperation and conflict between national criminal-law systems, is known as international criminal law.

Q2. Where does international criminal law come from?

Ans. Treaties, customary international law, basic legal concepts, judicial rulings, and the writings of prominent jurists are the main sources of international criminal law.

Q3. Is India a part of ICC?

Ans. India is not a member of the ICC.

Q4. How does international criminal law function?

Ans. The goal of international criminal law is to establish an individual's criminal liability for crimes committed abroad. Public international law is not particularly well suited to this task because it generally focuses on the rights and obligations of states.

Q5. How many countries are in the ICC?

Ans. 123 countries are States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Updated on: 06-Apr-2023


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