The International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court in The Hague prosecutes those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

In 1998, 60 countries signed the Rome Statute after it was opened for signature by the United Nations. The Statute laid the foundation for the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002. Its purpose is to investigate and prosecute war criminals.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court

  • War crimes

    War crimes include torture, mutilation, corporal punishment, hostage taking and acts of terrorism. This category also covers violations of human dignity such as rape and forced prostitution, looting and execution without trial. War crimes, unlike crimes against humanity, are always committed in times of war.
  • Genocide

    This includes all acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic or religious group.
  • Crimes against humanity

    Crimes against humanity are acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, such as murder, deportation, torture and rape. The ICC prosecutes the perpetrators even if the crimes were not committed in times of war.

Consequences of the crime of aggression

The states that are party to the Rome Statute have not yet reached consensus on the definition of and punishment for aggression. Until they do, the ICC is unable to prosecute individuals for acts of aggression.

The powers of the ICC

The ICC is only competent to hear a case if:

  • the country where the offence was committed is a party to the Rome Statute; or
  • the perpetrator's country of origin is a party to the Rome Statute.

The ICC may only exercise its jurisdiction if the national court is unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC only has jurisdiction over offences committed after the Statute’s entry into force on 1 July 2002.

Referring a case to the International Criminal Court

Various parties have the right to refer a case to the ICC:

  • any State Party to the Rome Statute, irrespective of any involvement in the alleged offence;
  • the Prosecutor of the ICC;
  • the United Nations Security Council

The United Nations Security Council may ask the ICC to defer investigation of a case for a limited period if it considers that the proceedings would constitute an obstruction to its powers.

Situations currently under investigation by the ICC

The ICC is currently investigating a number of cases relating to the situations in:

  • Sudan;
  • Uganda;
  • the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC);
  • the Central African Republic (CAR);
  • Kenya.

A summary of current investigations into genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity can be found on the website of the International Criminal Court.