Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:02 pm (KSA) 16:02 pm (GMT)

[FACTBOX] The International Criminal Court

The ICC headquarters in The Hague
The ICC headquarters in The Hague

The atrocities committed in World War II focused the world's attention on the need to establish an international court to deal with crimes against humanity.

The Nuremburg trials (1945-1946) and the Tokyo Tribunal (1946-1948) were considered a prelude to this type of court. The idea was constantly revived, but the project did not materialize until the late 1980s when work began on the draft stature.

Meanwhile, special tribunals were formed to try war crimes committed in Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Those impromptu tribunals highlighted the necessity of establishing a permanent independent court that specializes in crimes against humanity.


Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was founded on July 1, 2002.

The founding treaty, the Rome Statute of 1998, of the International Criminal Court has 139 signatory states. Signing the treaty obliges a state to refrain from acts that would antithetical to the purpose of the court.

The Rome Statute was ratified by 108 states and called for establishing a permanent court that will prosecute perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crime against humanity.

When a government that has signed the treaty decides to be bound by it, it ratifies it and becomes an ICC state member state.

The treaty was approved by a 120 to seven with 21 countries abstaining. The seven countries that voted against the establishment of the court were Iraq, Israel, Libya, China, Qatar, U.S. and Yemen.

According to article 126 of the treaty, the Rome Statue would only become binding when ratified by 60 states. This number was reached in April 2002, and the treaty came into force on July 1, 2002. Only crimes committed on or after this date can be prosecuted at the ICC.


The Middle East and North African Region (MENA) has one ICC member: Jordan.

The Comoros Islands and Djibouti, who are not MENA countries but are members of the Arab League, are also parties to the Rome Statue.

Eleven more states (Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Syria, UAE and Yemen) are signatories to the Rome Statute and have been key participants in the meetings prior to and since the Rome Conference of 1998. Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia did not sign the Rome Statute, Israel, along with the United States and Sudan, submitted letters to the United Nations indicating they no longer wanted to be State Parties of the Rome Statue and as a result, had no legal obligations arising from their signature of the statute.

There are 108 member states of the Rome Statute: 30 African States, 14 Asian States, 16 Eastern European states, 23 Latin American and Caribbean States, and 25 Western European. Jordan is the only Middle Eastern and only Arab country that is a member of the ICC.


The ICC is an independent organization and, unlike the International Court of Justice, does not operate under the U.N. system. The ICC official seat is The Hague, Netherlands, but the trials can take place anywhere.

The ICC is only allowed to prosecute crimes committed by individuals from state parties or on the territory of a state party as well as crimes referred to its jurisdiction by the U.N. Security Council. Although the ICC is independent from the United Nations, article 13 of the Rome Statute allows the Security Council to refer specific cases to the ICC. This is the case with Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who would otherwise not be tried by the ICC as Sudan is not a member state. According to article 16 of the statute, the Security Council also has the right to require that the ICC defer investigating a certain case for a period of 12 months, subject to indefinite renewal.

The ICC does not violate the jurisdiction of national systems, but is rather made to complement them. Individual states are responsible for investigating crimes that take place in their territories. The ICC comes in when a country is not willing to or in not capable of carrying out investigations and prosecutions.

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