The International Criminal Court
The permanent premises of the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

On 1st July 2002, the first permanent court designed to try perpetrators of the most serious international crimes – namely, genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. these crimes are considered so heinous that humanity as a whole is a victim, and they tend not to be punishable under domestic criminal justice systems because the state itself is often implicated in the crimes. (see for more information).

The Rome Statue is the founding document of the International Criminal Court. It was adopted on 17th July 1998, at the conclusion of the Rome Conference, with a vote of 120 states, with 21 states abstaining from the vote, and seven countries voting against the Statute, including the United States. 139 countries signed the Statute by 2000, and the Rome Statute came into force on 1st July 2002. Currently, 139 states have signed the Rome Statute, although only 108 of those have ratified it. Signing a treaty demonstrates an intent to abide by the treat, but it is not binding.

When a state ratifies the Rome Statute, it is accepting the jurisdiction of the Court. The ICC has jurisdiction over the four international crimes (jurisdiction ratione materiae) that occur in the state party’s territory (jurisdiction ratione loci) and crimes committed by nationals of the state party (jurisdiction ratione personae). The ICC works on the principle of complementarily, meaning that the Court does not take precedence over national proceedings, and can only take on a case if the state is unwilling or unable to prosecute.

There have been 23 cases before the court, the first of which was the situation in Uganda. Four people have been tried, resulting in three convictions and one acquittal, all relating to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 27 people have been subject to ICC arrest warrants – three of which have been revoked because of the suspect’s death. Two of the deceased suspects are Vincent Otti and Okot Odhiambo of the Lord’s Resistance Army.