The Court of Last Resort
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court, and the court of last resort for prosecution of persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. It is governed by the Rome Statute and is the first permanent, treaty-based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is NOT a part of the United Nations system; however, it maintains a cooperative relationship with the UN. The ICC is also different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations for the settlement of disputes between states.
On 17th of July 1998, the international community reached an historic milestone when 120 States adopted the Rome Statute, the legal basis for establishing the permanent International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002 after ratification by 60 countries. More than 120 countries have now ratified the treaty — Israel and the US are not among them. Only one Arab state has ratified so far and that is Jordan.
As of July 2013, the ICC had 122 states parties.
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The ICC is governed by an Assembly of States Parties, which is made up of the states which are party to the Rome Statute. The Assembly elects officials of the Court, approves its budget, and adopts amendments to the Rome Statute. The Court itself, however, is composed of four organs. A brief description of these is as under:
The Presidency is responsible for the overall administration of the Court, with the exception of the Office of the Prosecutor, and for specific functions assigned to the Presidency in accordance with the Statute. The Presidency is composed of three judges of the Court, elected to the Presidency by their fellow judges, for a term of three years.
2. Judicial Divisions
The Judicial Divisions consist of eighteen judges organized into the Pre-Trial Division, the Trial Division and the Appeals Division. The judges of each Division sit in Chambers which are responsible for conducting the proceedings of the Court at different stages.
3. Office of the Prosecutor
The Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for receiving referrals and any substantiated information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court, for examining them and for conducting investigations and prosecutions before the Court.
The Registry is responsible for the non-judicial aspects of the administration and servicing of the Court. The Registry is headed by the Registrar who is the principal administrative officer of the Court.
The Court also includes a number of semi-autonomous offices such as the Office of Public Counsel for Victims and the Office of Public Counsel for Defence. These Offices fall under the Registry for administrative purposes but otherwise function as wholly independent offices. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute.
Judges of the ICC
The ICC consists of 18 judges. They are elected for nine-year terms by the member countries. The judges are organized into three divisions: the Pre-Trial Division, Trial Division and Appeals Division.
The seat of the Court is in The Hague in the Netherlands. The Rome Statute provides that the Court may sit elsewhere whenever the judges consider it desirable. The Court has also set up offices in the areas where it is conducting investigations.
Funding of the ICC
The Court is funded by contributions from the States Parties and by voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.
Difference between the ICC and Other Courts
The ICC is a permanent autonomous court, whereas the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as other similar courts established within the framework of the United Nations to deal with specific situations only have a limited mandate and jurisdiction.
Working of System
The prosecutor begins an investigation if a case is referred either by the UN Security Council or by a ratifying state. He or she can also take independent action, but prosecutions have to be approved by a panel of judges.
Both the prosecutor and the judges are elected by the states taking part in the court.
Luis Moreno Ocampo of Argentina was the first chief prosecutor of the court. He has been replaced by Fatou Bensouda from The Gambia.
Each state has a right to nominate one candidate for election as a judge.
- The court’s first verdict, in March 2012, was against Thomas Lubanga, the leader of a militia in Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The highest profile person to be brought to the ICC is Ivory Coast’s former President Laurent Gbagbo.
- In November 2010, a trial started of Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former DR Congo vice-president.
- In November 2009 another trial started, against Congolese militia leaders Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui.
- The ICC has also charged the winner of Kenya’s 2013 presidential election, Uhuru Kenyatta, and three other high-profile Kenyans.
- Among those wanted by the ICC is the leader of Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Its leader, Joseph Kony, is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. He remains at large and refuses to sign a peace deal until the ICC arrest warrant is revoked.
- The court has an outstanding arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir — the first against a serving head of state.
- The ICC has also issued arrest warrants for two close allies of Libya’s former leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, accused of ordering troops to fire on protesters in 2011.