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International Criminal Court in International Humanitarian Law

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International Criminal Court in International Humanitarian Law


The international law has carved out new dimensions of social justice by establishing the International forum grievance redressal. International Criminal Court was created on 1st July, 2002. It investigates and punishes people for genocide, warcrimes, and crime against humanity.

The head of International Criminal Court is in Hague in Netherlands and has smaller offices in New York City, Kampala, Kinshasa, Bunia, Abeche and Bangui.

International Criminal Court is different from International Criminal Justice. The main difference is that ICJ settles arguments between countries but ICC punishes people. The ICC is participating in a global fight to end impunity and to hold those responsible who are accountable for the crime.


Governed by an international treaty called the Rome statute, the ICC is the world’s first permanent International Criminal Court. There are six official languages that are spoken- English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish. English and French are mainly spoken.


Establishment of an International Tribunal to judge political leaders accused of International crimes for the first time proposed during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 following the 1st World War with commission of responsibilities.

The issue was addressed again at a conference held at Geneva under the ages of League of Nations in 1937 which resulted in the conclusion of 1st Convention stipulating the establishment of a permanent international court to try acts of international terrorism.

The Convention was signed by 13 states but none ratified it and the convention never entered into force. Following the 2nd World War the elite power established two ad hoc tribunal to prosecute axis leaders accused of war crimes

The International military tribunal which sat in Nuremberg, prosecuted German leaders while the other international military tribunal for the far east in Tokyo prosecuted japanese leaders.

In 1948 the UN General Assembly first recognized the need for the permanent international court to deal with atrocities of the kind prosecuted after the second world war. At the request of the General Assembly the International Law Commission drafted two statutes by the early 1950s but these were shelved during the Cold War, which made the establishment of an international criminal court politically unrealistic.

Benjamin B. Ferencz, an American lawyer, investigator of Nazi War Crime after the World War II and the chief prosecutor of US Army in Einstatzgruppen trial became a vocal advocate of the establishment of international rule of law and of international criminal court.

The second major advocate was Robert Kurt Woetzel who edited the book on ICC in 1970 and created the foundation for the establishment of ICC in 1971. In June 1998, the UN General Assembly conveyed the conference in Rome with the aim of finalising the treaty to serve as a core statute.

On 17th July, 1998, the Rome statute of International Criminal Court was created on 1st July, 2002. It investigates and punishes people for genocide, warcrimes, and crime against humanity. was adopted by a vote of 1227 with 21 countries abstaining. The seven countries that voted against are China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, US, Yemen but it got 60 ratification and  hence Rome Statute entered into force on 1st July, 2002 and ICC was formally established.


International Criminal Court was created on 1st July, 2002. It investigates and punishes people for genocide, warcrimes, and crime against humanity. is a permanent autonomous court whereas there are tribunals that deal with specific situations and limited mandate and jurisdiction.


The International Criminal Court is governed by the assembly of state parties which is made up of state parties to the Rome Statute. The assembly elects officials of the courts, approves its budget and adopts amendments to the Rome Statute. The court itself is however composed of 4 organs.

The Presidency

It is responsible for the proper administration of the court. It comprises the Presidents and first and second Vice presidents, three judges of the court who are elected to the presidencies by their fellow judges for a minimum term of 2-3 years.

As of March 2021, the president is Piotu Hafmanski from Poland who took office on 11th March 2021 succeeding Chile Eboc-Osuji, his first term will expire in 2024.

The Presidency represents the court to the outside world and helps with the organisation with the work of judges. The presidency is also responsible for carrying out other tasks such as ensuring the enforcement of sentences imposed by the court.

The Judicial Divisions

This consists of 18 judges of the court organised into three chambers: the pre-trial, trial and the appeals chambers which carry out the judicial functions of the courts. Judges are elected to the court by the assembly state party. They serve for nine years and are generally not eligible for re-election. All judges must be nationals of state parties to the Rome statute and no two judges may be nationals of the same state.

They must be persons of high moral character, impartiality and integrity are important and who possess the qualifications required. The prosecutor or any person being investigated or prosecuted may request the disqualification of a judge from any case in which his/her impartiality might reasonably be doubted on any ground. Any request for the disqualification of a judge from a particular case is decided by an absolute majority of the other judges. The removal of the judge requires both the 2/3rd majority of the other judges and 2/3rd majority of the state party.

The Office of the Prosecutor

It is an independent organ of the court and its mandate is to analyse and release information on situations or deal with the crimes within the jurisdiction of ICC to analyse situation referred to it in order to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to initiate an investigation into a crime of genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes or crime of aggression and to bring the prepetrators of these crimes before the courts. It is composed of three divisions:

  • The Investigation Division: responsible for conducting investigations including gatherings and examining evidence, questioning persons under investigation as well as victims and witnesses.
  • The Prosecution Division: The principle responsibility is litigating cases before the various chambers of the courts.
  • The Jurisdiction Complementarity and Cooperation Division: With the support of the investigation division, assesses information received and situations referred to the court, analyses situation and cases to determine their admissibility and helps secure the cooperation required by the office of the prosecutor to fulfill its mandate.

The Registry

It is headed by a registrar who is elected by the judges for a term of 5 years. The registry helps the court to conduct fair, impartial and public trials. The core function of the registry is to provide administrative and operational support to the chambers and office of the prosecutor.

It  ensures the court is properly serviced and develops effective mechanisms for assisting victims, witnesses and the defence in order to safeguard their rights under Rome Statute and the rules of the procedure and evidence. The registry also has primary responsibility for the ICC’s public information and outreach activities.


As of November 2019, 123 states have been parties to the statute of the court, few countries where member states. But later on they withdrew, about 31 countries have signed but have ratified the rome statute. 41 additional states have neither signed nor exceeded the Rome statute. Some of them, including China and India, are critical of the court. Ukraine, a non-ratifying signatory, has accepted the court’s jurisdiction for a period starting in 2013.


It consists of one representative from each party. Each state party has one vote and every effort has to be made to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, decisions are made by votes. The Assembly is presided over by the President and two Vice-President who are elected by the members for the term of 3 years.

The Assembly needs to be in full session once a year and they may hold special sessions when required. The assembly elects the judges and prosecutors besides the courts budget, adopts important texts such as the rules of procedure and evidence and provides management oversight to the other organs of the court.

Article 46 of Rome Statute allows the assembly to remove from office a judge or prosecutor if found to have committed serious misconduct or serious breach of his/her duties or is unable to exercise the functions required by this statute. The state parties cannot interfere with Judicial functions of the court, disputes concerning individual cases are settled by the judicial divisions. In 2010 Kampala, Uganda hosted the assemblies Rome Statute review conference.


  1. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/role-international-criminal-court
  2. https://www.hrw.org/topic/international-justice/international-criminal-court

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