About the Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities. The international community has long aspired to the creation of a permanent international court, and, in the 20th century, it reached consensus on definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials addressed war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War. In the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, tribunals like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda were the result of consensus that impunity is unacceptable. However, because they were established to try crimes committed only within a specific time-frame and during a specific conflict, there was general agreement that an independent, permanent criminal court was needed. On 17 July 1998, the international community reached an historic milestone when 120 States adopted the Rome Statute, the legal basis for establishing the permanent International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 after ratification by 60 countries.

Frequently Asked Questions Why is an International Criminal Court necessary?
This past century has seen some of the worst atrocities in the history of humanity. In too many cases, these crimes have been committed with impunity, which has only encouraged others to flout the laws of humanity. States representative of the international community met in order to negotiate and agree upon the establishment of a treaty based International Criminal Court to help end impunity and the gross violations of international humanitarian law.

What are the key features of the ICC?

Based in the Hague, The Netherlands, the International Criminal Court is the first ever permanent international institution, with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Court shall exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression once a provision is adopted defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to it. The jurisdiction of the ICC will be complementary to national courts, which means that the Court will only act when countries themselves are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute. The jurisdiction and functioning of the court is governed by the provisions of the Rome Statute. The ICC also has strong protections for due process, procedural safeguards to protect it from abuse, and furthers victims' rights and gender justice under international law.

When did the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court enter into force?
The ICC Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002, 60 days after the 60th ratification needed to create the Court was received on April 11th at a special event at the United Nations, when 10 countries simultaneously deposited their instruments of ratification.

Doesn’t “complementarity” mean that the International Criminal Court can never prosecute if a country holds its own trial?
The International Criminal Court will complement national courts so that they retain jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. If a case is being considered by a country with jurisdiction over it, then the ICC cannot act unless the country is unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate or prosecute.

A country may be determined to be "unwilling" if it is clearly shielding someone from responsibility for ICC crimes. A country may be "unable" when its legal system has collapsed.

Who can initiate proceedings?
Proceedings before the ICC may be initiated by a State Party, the Prosecutor or the United Nations Security Council. The jurisdiction of the ICC is based on "complementarity", which allows national courts the first opportunity to investigate or prosecute.

Can the ICC be used to try crimes committed before the Rome Treaty entered into force?
The ICC will not have retroactive jurisdiction and therefore will not apply to crimes committed before 1 July 2002, when the Statute entered into force.

Why is the Court not exercising its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression?
The Rome Statute included the crime of aggression within the jurisdiction of the Court. However, the States Parties must adopt an agreement setting up a definition of aggression and the conditions under which the Court could exercise its jurisdiction. A review conference will be held in 2009, seven years from the date that the Rome Statute entered into force, during which the matter will be discussed.

Can the ICC deal with terrorist acts within its existing jurisdiction?

The ICC will have jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC may be able to prosecute terrorist acts only if they fall within these categories.

How is the ICC different from the ad hoc Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia?
The International Criminal Court is the product of a multilateral treaty, whereas the Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were created by the United Nations Security Council. These tribunals were created in response to specific situations and will be in existence for a limited time period. The ICC is a permanent international criminal tribunal and will avoid the delays and costs of creating ad hoc tribunals.

How is the ICC different from the International Court of Justice?
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) does not have criminal jurisdiction to prosecute individuals. It is a civil tribunal that deals primarily with disputes between States. The ICJ is the principle judicial organ of the United Nations, whereas the ICC is independent of the UN.

How is the Court funded?
The Court is funded by contributions from the States Parties and by voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

Where is the International Criminal Court located?
The ICC has established its headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands. The Court is currently located at ‘de arc’.

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Address: Maanweg 174, 2516 AB, The Hague, Netherlands Postal Address: Po Box 19519, 2500 CM, The Hague, Netherlands

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