What is the International Crime Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent international intergovernmental court that started operations in 2002 and is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC is a court of last resort for individuals accused of international crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This court only comes into play when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute the accused. The UN security council or states may also refer cases to this court. The Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty, is the foundation and government document of the ICC and that many countries have ratified and domesticated.


The Geneva Assembly met in Rome in 1998 to finalize the statute of the court. The following month, 120 countries voted to adopt the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, while seven countries rejected the statute and the other 21 abstained. Those against the statute were the United States, China, Yemen, Iraq, Israel, Libya and Qatar. The Rome Statute became operational in July 1, 2002, followed by an election of eighteen judges in 2013. In 2005, ICC issued the first arrest warrants.


The 124 states that have ratified the Rome Statute govern the ICC under the name of Assembly of States Parties (ASP). The Assembly has a President and two Vice-Presidents who have a three-year mandate while each state has a representative and a vote. This assembly sits once a year; elects court officials, amends the statute and monitors the budget. The ICC has four bodies: the Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Registry.

Presidency: The presidency body is responsible for the administration of the court and includes the president, two vice-presidents and three judges (elected by fellow judges to join the presidency).

Judicial Division: This division has eighteen judges of the entire court organized in three sections, responsible for the Pre-Trial Chamber, the Trial Chamber and the Appellate Chamber. The ASP elects each judge for a fixed term of nine years. The judges come from the countries of the state parties and there are no two judges who can come from one country at a time.

Prosecutor’s Office (OTP): The OTP is an independent office that conducts judicial investigations and proceedings. With the chief prosecutor as chief, he or she can have more than one deputy prosecutor. In order for the OTP to investigate, the cases must have been referred by a State party, referred by the UN Security Council or authorized by the Pre-Trial Chamber because of information provided by independent bodies.

register : The register manages all aspects of the non-judicial administration of the ICC. Within the register of the register are; legal assistance, court management, protection of victims and witnesses, detention units among other services such as procurement, personnel, translation and building management. The judges of the ICC elect the Registrar to direct this unit for a fixed period of five years.


In order for ICC to handle a case, the crimes must meet the standards prescribed in the Rome Statute which include:

Genocide : Genocide involves the damage, killing or prevention of births of a group of people, including the forced transfer of a group of children.

Crimes against humanity : widespread or systemic attacks against civilians including murder, deportation, rape, torture, apartheid, persecution and sexual slavery among others.

War crimes: International or non-international war crimes committed by state or non-state actors. These are tortures, intentional killings, biological experiments, denial of the process, hostage taking, illegal deportation and mutilation among others.

Crimes of aggression : ICC cannot handle crimes of aggression until the court defines these crimes. However, following UN General Assembly Resolution 3314, these crimes include military occupation, the annexation of the territory, bombing of a territory and an attack on land, sea, air or air fleets and naval, among many others.

Other jurisdictions include crimes against the administration of justice.


Several African states and regional bodies have accused the court of being a neo-colonial instrument that addresses only African leaders. The AU, Kenya, South Africa and Sudan have threatened mass withdrawal from the statute. The US State Department once stated that judges and prosecutors do not have sufficient checks and balances and therefore, with the support of the law on the protection of American service members, forbid the United States to always cooperate with the court. Furthermore, the persecution of leaders by the court has made the dictators less likely to resign for fear of being arrested. Although not intentional, this is the case of Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and, as several neighborhoods believe.

by Abdullah Sam
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