International Explainers: The International Criminal Court


With 17th July marking the World Day for International Justice, there’s no better time to clarify the importance of the International Criminal Court. 

Credit: Vincent van Zeijst

Q: What is the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

A: The simplest explanation comes from the ICC website itself: ‘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 and crimes against humanity’. 

The ICC is based in The Hague, a city on the coast of Western Netherlands. The court was established by a treaty known as the Rome Statute, which came into force on 1 July 2002, and as of March 2016 there were 124 states that were party to the statute. The court has no retrospective jurisdiction, so it can only deal with crimes committed after the Rome Statute came into force.

Q: How does the court work?

A: The ICC itself has to rely on national police services to make arrests and then seek their transfer to The Hague. This can sometimes create problems as countries sometimes refuse to co-operate in arrests.

The prosecutor can begin an investigation only if a case is referred either by the UN Security Council or by a ratifying state. Both the prosecutor and the judges are elected by the states taking part in the court, and each state has the right to nominate one candidate for election as a judge.

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English and History student.

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