News By/Courtesy: Harshita Kumari | 22 Jul 2023 0:25am IST


  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a pivotal institution in the realm of international law,
  • To hold individuals accountable for the most egregious crimes that deeply shock the conscience of humanity
  • Established in 2002, the ICC represents a significant milestone in the evolution of international justice.


The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a pivotal institution in the realm of international law, aiming to hold individuals accountable for the most egregious crimes that deeply shock the conscience of humanity. Established in 2002, the ICC represents a significant milestone in the evolution of international justice, as it strives to put an end to impunity for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the ICC, its historical background, structure, functions, challenges, and impact on global justice.

Historical Background:

The origins of the International Criminal Court can be traced back to the aftermath of World War II when the international community sought to establish a permanent institution to prosecute those responsible for the horrific atrocities committed during the war. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials marked crucial precedents, but it was not until the Rome Statute's adoption in 1998 that the idea of a permanent international criminal court gained significant traction.

The Rome Statute, which serves as the ICC's founding treaty, was adopted on July 17, 1998, during a diplomatic conference held in Rome, Italy. It entered into force on July 1, 2002, after being ratified by 60 states. Today, the ICC boasts 123 member states, signalling widespread international support for its mission.

Structure and Jurisdiction:

The International Criminal Court is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, and consists of four main organs:

  1. The Presidency: Comprising the President and two Vice-Presidents, it oversees the administration of the court and represents the ICC in its external relations.

  2. The Judicial Divisions: These divisions consist of 18 judges organized into Pre-Trial, Trial, and Appeals chambers, responsible for conducting fair and impartial trials.

  3. The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP): Led by the Chief Prosecutor, the OTP is responsible for conducting investigations and prosecutions of individuals accused of committing crimes under the ICC's jurisdiction.

  4. The Registry: This organ is tasked with the court's non-judicial functions, such as administering its budget, handling detainees, and providing support to victims and witnesses.

The ICC's jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed on or after July 1, 2002, and falls under three main categories:

a. Genocide: Acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.

b. War Crimes: Grave violations of the Geneva Conventions, including wilful killing, torture, and inhumane treatment of civilians during armed conflicts.

c. Crimes Against Humanity: Widespread and systematic attacks against civilians, such as murder, enslavement, and sexual violence.

The Crime of Aggression: The ICC gained jurisdiction over the crime of aggression in 2018, allowing it to prosecute individuals for planning, initiating, or executing acts of aggression against the territorial integrity or political independence of a state.

Challenges and Criticisms:

While the International Criminal Court represents a beacon of hope for global justice, it has faced various challenges and criticisms since its inception:

  1. Limited Jurisdiction: The ICC's jurisdiction is restricted to crimes committed after 2002 and is dependent on member states' cooperation in apprehending suspects. This limitation prevents it from prosecuting historical atrocities and crimes in countries that are not parties to the Rome Statute.

  2. Selective Prosecution: Critics argue that the ICC's focus has been primarily on African cases, leading to accusations of bias and a perception that powerful states escape scrutiny.

  3. Lack of Enforcement Power: The ICC does not have its enforcement mechanism, relying on state cooperation to execute arrest warrants and implement judgments. This reliance on voluntary compliance can hinder its ability to bring fugitives to justice.

  4. Political Interference: The ICC's work can be subject to political pressures and influence, making it challenging to maintain an independent and impartial stance.

Impact on Global Justice:

Despite its challenges, the International Criminal Court has made significant contributions to global justice:

  1. Accountability: The ICC has brought attention to the atrocities committed during armed conflicts, fostering a culture of accountability for perpetrators of heinous crimes.

  2. Deterrence: The existence of the ICC serves as a deterrent to potential war criminals, emphasizing that they will be held accountable for their actions.

  3. Victim Participation: The court has allowed victims to participate in its proceedings, offering them a voice and recognition of their suffering.

  4. Shaping International Law: The ICC's decisions have contributed to the development and clarification of international humanitarian law and human rights norms.


The International Criminal Court stands as a vital instrument in the fight against impunity for the gravest crimes known to humanity. Despite challenges and criticisms, the ICC's role in fostering accountability, deterring future atrocities, and advancing the cause of global justice cannot be overstated. As it continues to evolve and face new challenges, international support, cooperation, and an unwavering commitment to its mandate remain essential to ensure a just and peaceful world.


Section Editor: KADAM HANS | 22 Jul 2023 0:27am IST


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