[International Institutions]- International Criminal Court -ICC

What is International Criminal Court ?

  • The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
  • The ICC lacks universal territorial jurisdiction, and may only investigate and prosecute crimes committed within member states, crimes committed by nationals of member states, or crimes in situations referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council.
  • The ICC began functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force.

The Rome Statute

  • The Rome Statute is a multilateral treaty that serves as the ICC’s foundational and governing document.
  • States which become party to the Rome Statute become member states of the ICC.

Organisation Structure

  • The Assembly of States Parties provides management oversight for the Court, including electing judges and the Prosecutor and approving the ICC’s budget.

Four organs of the ICC

1.Presidency conducts external relations with States, coordinates judicial matters such as assigning judges, situations and cases to divisions, and oversees the Registry’s administrative work.

2.Judicial Divisions (18 judges in 3 divisions) Pre-Trial, Trial and Appeals – conduct judicial proceedings

3.Office of the Prosecutor conducts preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions.

4.Registry conducts non-judicial activities, such as security, interpretation, outreach, support to Defence and victims’ lawyers etc.

  • Trust Fund for Victims provides assistance, support and reparations to victims.
  • The ICC has field offices in several of the countries in which investigations are being conducted.
  • The ICC detention centre is used to hold in safe, secure and humane custody those detained by the ICC.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the Detention Centre’s inspecting authority and as such has unrestricted access and examine, on unannounced visits.

Member Nations

Facts and Figures

  • As of November 2019, 123 nations are States Parties to the Rome Statute and recognize the ICC’s authority; the notable exceptions being the US, China, Russia, and India.
  • 42 states are non-party, non-signatory states.
  • India is not a member of the ICC.
  • It has 6 official languages :English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.
  • It has 2 working languages:English and French.
  • ICC Headquarters at The Hague, the Netherlands.
  • The Court seeks global cooperation to protect all people from the crimes codified in the Rome Statute. 

International Criminal Court - Rome Statute, Alleged African bias ...

Jurisdiction and Working of Court

  1. The Rome Statute, grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main crimes:
  • 1.The Crime of Genocide
  • 2.Crimes against Humanity
  • 3.War Crimes
  • 4.Crime of Aggression
  1. The crimes were committed by a State Party national, or in the territory of a State Party, or in a State that has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court
  2. The crimes were referred to the ICC Prosecutor by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) pursuant to a resolution adopted under chapter VII of the UN charter.
  3. The ICC is intended to complement, not to replace, national criminal systems; it prosecutes cases only when States do not are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.
  4. ICC is not a UN organization but is has a cooperation agreement with the United Nations.
  5. When a situation is not within the Court’s jurisdiction, the United Nations Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC granting it jurisdiction.

Limitations of ICC

  1. ICC does not have its own police force or enforcement body.
  2. ICC acts inconsistently in its selection of cases, is prevented from taking on hard cases and loses legitimacy.
  3. There is insufficient checks and balances on the authority of the ICC prosecutor and judges.
  4. ICC has been accused of being a tool of Western imperialism and biased in favour of powerful countries against weak states.
  5. ICC cannot impose a death sentence; it can impose lengthy terms of imprisonment of up to 30 years or life when so justified by the gravity of the cases.
  6. The ICC court has no retrospective jurisdiction as it can deal only with crimes committed after 1 July 2002 when the 1998 Rome Statute came into force.
  7. ICC has automatic jurisdiction only for crimes committed on the territory of a state which has ratified the treaty; or by a citizen of such a state; or when the United Nations Security Council refers a case to it.
  8. It also faces scarcity of human resources and funds.
  9. Procedural and substantive deficiencies leading to delays and frustration, have questioned the efficacy of the court.


India did not signed the Rome Statute, and thus, is not a member of ICC because of following reasons

  1. State sovereignty
  2. Crime definition
  3. National interests
  4. Difficulty in collection of evidences
  5. Problem to find impartial prosecutors


  1. Unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the ICC is not part of the United Nations system, with the UN-ICC relationship being governed by a separate agreement.
  2. The ICJ, which is among the UN’s 6 principal organs, mainly hears disputes between nations.
  3. The ICC, on the other hand, prosecutes individuals– its authority extending to offences committed in a member state or by a national of such a state.

Way Forward

  1. States should actively encourage cooperation with ICC and support human rights defenders working towards international justice and the fulfilment of the ICC’s mandate.
  2. African nations are well represented, but Asia is still underrepresented.
  3. The court needs to broaden its ambit by including more permanent members of UN and by strengthening of investigations and prosecutions.
  4. ICC needs stronger support from the United Nations Security Council.
  5. ICC role is very important as international justice can contribute to long‐term peace, stability and equitable development in post‐conflict societies.
  6. The obstructive attitude of some nonstate parties needs to stop. It’s in the interest of the entire international community that the court can function.
  7. The ICC needs to implement reforms, and it’s up to us, the state parties, to offer support and make this happen.

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