INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT by UTKARSHINI SINHA @LEXCLIQ

International Criminal Court (ICC), permanent judicial body established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998) to prosecute and adjudicate individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. On July 1, 2002, after the requisite number of countries (60) ratified the agreement, the court began sittings. It is headquartered in the Netherlands at The Hague.

The ICC was established as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses in cases where national courts fail to act. Unlike the International Court of Justice which hears disputes between states, the ICC handles prosecutions of individuals. The court’s jurisdiction extends to offenses that occurred after July 1, 2002, that were committed either in a state that has ratified the agreement or by a national of such a state.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

The Court is participating in a global fight to end impunity, and through international criminal justice, the Court aims to hold those responsible accountable for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again.

​​The Court cannot reach these goals alone. As a court of last resort, it seeks to complement, not replace, national Courts. Governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent international criminal court.

How the Court works

The crimes

The Court’s founding treaty, called the Rome Statute, grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main crimes.

First, the crime of genocide is characterised by the specific intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group by killing its members or by other means: causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Second, the ICC can prosecute crimes against humanity, which are serious violations committed as part of a large-scale attack against any civilian population. The 15 forms of crimes against humanity listed in the Rome Statute include offences such as murder, rape, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, enslavement – particularly of women and children, sexual slavery, torture, apartheid and deportation.

Third, war crimes which are grave breaches of the Geneva conventions in the context of armed conflict and include, for instance, the use of child soldiers; the killing or torture of persons such as civilians or prisoners of war; intentionally directing attacks against hospitals, historic monuments, or buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes.

Finally, the fourth crime falling within the ICC’s jurisdiction is the crime of aggression. It is the use of armed force by a State against the sovereignty, integrity or independence of another State. The definition of this crime was adopted through amending the Rome Statute at the first Review Conference of the Statute in Kampala, Uganda, in 2010.

On 15 December 2017, the Assembly of States Parties adopted by consensus a resolution on the activation of the jurisdiction of the Court over the crime of aggression as of 17 July 2018.

Which countries are members of the court?

There are 123 countries party to the Rome Statute. Some forty countries never signed the treaty, including China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Several dozen others signed the statute, but their legislatures never ratified it. These include Egypt, Iran, Israel, Russia, Sudan, Syria, and the United States.

Two countries have withdrawn from the ICC. Burundi left in 2017, following the court’s decision to investigate the government’s crackdown on opposition protests. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte pulled out in 2019, after the court launched an inquiry into his government’s war on drugs, saying domestic courts are sufficient to enforce the rule of law. Gambia and South Africa notified the United Nations in 2016 that they intended to exit the treaty, but they later reversed course in the face of political upheaval and legal challenges.

The court has jurisdiction over four categories of crimes under international law:

  • genocide, or the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group;
  • war crimes, or grave breaches of the laws of war, which include the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on torture, the use of child soldiers, and attacks on civilian targets, such as hospitals or schools;
  • crimes against humanity, or violations committed as part of large-scale attacks against civilian populations, including murder, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and torture; and
  • crimes of aggression, or the use or threat of armed force by a state against the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or political independence of another state, or violations of the UN Charter.

 

How is it funded?

In 2020, the ICC’s annual budget stood at $180 million. The vast majority of that funding comes from member states. Contributions are determined by the same method the United Nations uses to assess dues, which roughly correspond to the size of each member’s economy. In 2019, the largest contributions came from Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. Some countries, notably Brazil and Venezuela, have run up millions of dollars in overdue payments.

The UN General Assembly can approve additional funding for cases referred to the court by the Security Council. Some governments and transnational organizations also offer voluntary contributions.

Some analysts have criticized the ICC as too expensive. Others counter that the court’s cost effectiveness cannot be based solely on the number of cases it tries or convictions it secures.

Summary

  • The ICC seeks to investigate and prosecute those responsible for grave offenses such as genocide and war crimes.
  • Dozens of countries are not ICC members, including China, India, Russia, and the United States.
  • ICC probes into possible war crimes in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories have angered policymakers in the United States and its longtime ally Israel.

 

Bibliography

 

 

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