International Criminal Court (ICC)

Also known as the Cour penale internationale in French.
Logo of International Criminal Court

Logo of the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent body whose mission is to investigate, prosecute and try, within its jurisdiction, individuals accused of committing the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole. It is not an agency of the United Nations (UN).

The Court differs from other courts such as ad hoc tribunal and International Court of Justice in that the Court is a permanent autonomous court and is not established within the framework of the United Nations.

The ICC is not a substitute for national courts. It can only intervene where a State (country which has accepted the rules of the Rome Statute) is unable or unwilling genuinely to carry out the investigation and prosecute the perpetrators.

The Court prosecutes individuals aged 18 and above, not groups or countries and no one is exempt from prosecution because of his or her current functions or position held.

The headquarters and seat of the International Criminal Court (ICC) are in The Hague, Netherlands. The Court may sit elsewhere whenever the judges consider it desirable.

The Court is funded by contributions from the State Parties and by voluntary contributions.

The Court has 124 States Parties, 6 official languages, namely Arabic, English, Chinese, French, Russian and Spanish whereas the 2 working languages are English and French.

On July 17, 1998, the Rome Statute was created and adopted by 120 countries which are known as States Parties. However, it was on July 1, 2002 that the International Criminal Court (ICC) was official established when the Rome Statute took effect upon being ratified by 60 States and entered into force.

The Rome Statute:
  • establishes the International Criminal Court;
  • defines the the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression;
  • sets new standards for victims' representation in the Courtroom; and
  • ensures fair trials and the rights of the defence.

The decisions of the Court are based on legal criteria and rendered by impartial judges in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute and other legal texts governing the work of the Court.

Four (4) organs of the International Criminal Court:
  1. Presidency: Consists of 3 judges who are elected by absolute majority of the 18 judges for a term of 3 years. The 3 main areas of responsibility are administration (with the exception of the Office of the Prosecutor), judicial or legal matters and external relations.
  2. Chambers: Composed of 18 judges, including the 3 Presidency judges, who are elected for terms of office of 9 years and fluent in at least one of the working languages of the Court. Judges are nominated and elected by State Parties. The judges are assigned to the 3 judicial divisions namely, the Pre-Trial Division, the Trial Division and the Appeals Division to ensure fair trials.
  3. Office of the Prosecutor: An independent organ of the Court. Composed of 3 divisions namely, the Investigation Division, the Prosecution Division and the Jurisdiction, Complementarity and Cooperation Division. It is mandated to conduct investigations, analyse information and prosecutions.
  4. Registry: Help the Court to conduct fair, impartial and public trials. It provides administrative and operational support to the Chambers and the Office of the Prosecutor.

For a case to come before the Court, any State Party can request the Office of the Prosecutor to carry out an investigation, which will determine whether the Court has jurisdiction with respect to the alleged crimes.

A person convicted of crime by the ICC does not serve the sentence at the ICC Detention Centre in the Hague, which is not designed for long-term imprisonment. A convicted person is transferred to a prison designated by the ICC from a list of countries.

Penalties that may be imposed by the Court are fine or forfeiture of the proceeds, property and assets derived directly or indirectly from the crime committed and maximum sentence of 30 years. However, in extreme cases, the Court may impose life imprisonment but not a death sentence.

The first hearing was held in 2006 and the first verdict of the Court was reached in 2012.

July 17 is celebrated worldwide as the International Criminal Justice Day or Day for International Justice since 2011.

The official website of the International Criminal Court (ICC) features legal texts, Court rulings and documents, hearing schedule, information about situations and cases, press releases, internship and Visiting Professionals Programme.
Address:   Head Office:

International Criminal Court
Oude Waalsdorperweg 10
2597 AK, The Hague
The Netherlands

Postal Address:

International Criminal Court
Post Office Box 19519
2500 CM, The Hague
The Netherlands

Liaison Office to the United Nations (UN):

866 United Nations Plaza, Suite 476
New York NY 10017
United States
Notes:   Official website is available in English and French versions.

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Keywords :  
international organization   crime   genocide   humanity   war crime
Guide ID: 3292 - Last Updated: October 14, 2016