International Criminal Court (ICC)

International Criminal Court

International Criminal Court (ICC)


  • Governed by an international treaty called ‘The Rome Statute’, the ICC is the world’s first permanent International Criminal Court.
  • It investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression.
  • Through international criminal justice, the ICC aims to hold those responsible for their crimes and to help prevent these crimes from happening again.
  • India is not a party to the Rome Statute along with the US and China.

How did it come into Being?

  • On 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by 120 States in the direction of creating a more just world.
  • On 1 July 2002, the Rome Statute took effect upon ratification by 60 states, officially establishing the International Criminal Court. Since it has no retroactive jurisdiction, the ICC deals with crimes committed on or after this date.
  • After the 2010 amendments – the Rome Statute also sets new standards for victims’ representation in the Courtroom and ensures fair trials and the rights of the defense.
  • Today the ‘Rome Statute’ serves as the ICC’s guiding legal instrument, which is elaborated in such other legal texts as the Elements of Crimes, Rules of Procedure and Evidence, and more.

ICC’s Organisational 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 International Criminal Court:
    • The 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.
    • Judicial Divisions (18 judges in 3 divisions) Pre-Trial, Trial, and Appeals – conduct judicial proceedings
    • Office of the Prosecutor conducts preliminary examinations, investigations, and prosecutions.
    • The 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 International Criminal Court has field offices in several of the countries in which investigations are being conducted.
  • The ICC detention center 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 examines, on unannounced visits.

What about ICC’s Jurisdiction and Working?

  • The Rome Statute grants the ICC jurisdiction over four main crimes:
    • The Crime of Genocide
    • Crimes against Humanity
    • War crimes
    • Crime of Aggression
  • The Court may exercise jurisdiction in a situation where genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes were committed on or after 1 July 2002,
  • 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;
  • 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.
  • As of 17 July 2018, a situation in which an act of aggression would appear to have occurred could be referred to the Court by the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, irrespective as to whether it involves States Parties or non-States Parties.
  • The International Criminal Court is intended to complement, not replace, national criminal systems; it prosecutes cases only when States are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.
  • ICC is not a UN organization but has a cooperation agreement with the United Nations.
  • 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. This has been done in the situations in Darfur (Sudan) and Libya.

Limitations of International Criminal Court.

  • As a judicial institution, the International Criminal Court does not have its own police force or enforcement body; thus, it relies on cooperation with countries worldwide for support, particularly for making arrests, transferring arrested persons to the ICC detention center in The Hague, freezing suspects’ assets, and enforcing sentences.
  • This State cooperation is problematic for several reasons. It means that the ICC acts inconsistently in its selection of cases, is prevented from taking on hard cases, and loses legitimacy.
  • It also gives the ICC less deterrent value, as potential perpetrators of war crimes know that they can avoid ICC judgment by taking over the government and refusing to cooperate.
  • There are insufficient checks and balances on the authority of the ICC prosecutor and judges.
  • International Criminal Court has been accused of being a tool of Western imperialism and biased in favor of powerful countries against weak states.
  • In 2020, the USA authorized sanctions against International Criminal Court (ICC) officials involved in investigations into possible war crimes by US troops and its allies.
    • The United Nations had taken serious note of the USA order.
    • The European Union called the USA decision a matter of serious concern.
    • The international NGO Human Rights Watch has observed that by penalising war crimes investigators, the USA is openly siding with those who commit and cover up human rights abuses.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • International Criminal Court has automatic jurisdiction only for crimes committed on the territory of a state that has ratified the treaty; by a citizen of such a state; or when the United Nations Security Council refers a case to it.
  • Procedural and substantive deficiencies leading to delays and frustration have questioned the efficacy of the court.
  • It also faces a scarcity of human resources and funds.

Difference between ICJ and ICC

  • Unlike the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court is not part of the United Nations system, with the UN-ICC relationship being governed by a separate agreement.
  • The ICJ, which is among the UN’s 6 principal organs, mainly hears disputes between nations. It was established in 1945 and is located in The Hague (Netherlands). Judge Dalveer Bhandari (India) is a member of the Court.
  • The ICC, on the other hand, prosecutes individuals– its authority extends to offenses committed in a member state or by a national of such a state.

India and ICC

India did not sign the Rome Statute, and thus, is not a member of the International Criminal Court for the following reasons:

  • State sovereignty
  • National interests
  • Difficulty in the collection of evidence
  • The problem of finding impartial prosecutors
  • Crime definition

Related Links:

International Court of Justice (ICJ)High Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaInternational Monetary Fund (IMF)