International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court: A Comprehensive Overview and Recent Developments

Education, Foreign Policy, International Criminal Court, International Relations, Political Science

The International Criminal Court (ICC), headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, stands as the world’s first permanent international criminal tribunal. Established through the adoption of the Rome Statute in July 1998, it officially entered into force in 2002, aiming to address and prosecute individuals for heinous international crimes.

The ICC operates under the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. It serves as a complement to national judicial systems, intervening only when a state is genuinely unable or unwilling to carry out investigations and prosecute perpetrators.

Membership and Rome Statute:

States become members of the ICC by becoming parties to the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty that serves as the ICC’s foundational and governing document. As of 2024, 123 states are ICC members, with 42 states neither signing nor becoming parties to the Rome Statute.

The ICC’s jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed within member states, by nationals of member states (with consent), or in situations referred by the United Nations Security Council. While the cooperation of non-party states is voluntary, UN Security Council referrals make cooperation obligatory for all UN member states.

Notable Cases and Withdrawals:

India remains a non-signatory to the Rome Statute, while Burundi and the Philippines withdrew their ICC memberships in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Only two cases involving non-state parties have been referred to the ICC by the UN Security Council – the Darfur situation (Sudan) in 2005 and Libya in 2011.

While 31 countries have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute, four states – Israel, Sudan, the United States, and Russia – have informed the UN Secretary General of their intention not to become states parties. Additionally, 41 states, including China, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, South Sudan, and Turkey, have neither signed nor acceded to the Rome Statute.

Recent Developments:

In a significant development, on March 17, 2023, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Commissioner for Child Rights, Maria Lvova-Belova. The charges involved the alleged war crime of unlawfully deporting and transferring children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, with the crimes purportedly committed in occupied territory from February 24, 2022.

Comparison between International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Comparison between the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Let me summarize the points:

International Court of Justice (ICJ):

  • Principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).
  • All member states of the UN automatically become members of the ICJ.
  • Not a criminal court and lacks a prosecutor to initiate proceedings.
  • Settles disputes between member states with their consent on issues like sovereignty, trade, natural resources, treaty violations, and treaty interpretation.

International Criminal Court (ICC):

  • Established under the Rome Statute in 2002, not governed by the UN.
  • Nations must sign and ratify the Rome Statute to become members.
  • Criminal court with the authority to try individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

These distinctions highlight the different functions and purposes of the two international legal institutions. The ICJ focuses on resolving legal disputes between states, while the ICC is specifically designed to address and prosecute individuals for serious international crimes.


As the ICC continues to navigate challenges and address international crimes, its role remains crucial in ensuring accountability and justice on the global stage. The recent arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin underscores the ICC’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for grave offenses against humanity.

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