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The International Criminal Court

On July 17, 1998, the international community adopted the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC is the world’s only permanent international criminal tribunal. It is headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, and is charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

Some of the key features of the ICC

  • The ICC has jurisdiction over the gravest instances of atrocity crimes and targets only the highest priority perpetrators of these crimes.
  • The ICC prosecutes individuals, not organizations or governments.
  • The ICC acts if the country in question is unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes that occur within that country’s jurisdiction.
  • The ICC is not part of the UN, though the Court may work at the request of the UN Security Council.
  • Cases come before the ICC if referred by a state party or by a non-state party in reference to a situation in its country; if the Office of the Prosecutor opens an investigation into atrocity crimes that occurred in the territory of a state party or committed by a national of a state party; or if the UN Security Council refers a situation.

The adoption of the Rome Statute creating the ICC was a momentous step towards ending impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious international crimes. The ICC’s work enhances a future of peace and security for the global community.

To date, 123 countries have ratified the Rome Statute.

The United States was instrumental in the drafting of the Rome Statue, which created the ICC. The US has not ratified the Rome Statute but retains a strong positive relationship with the Court on an ad hoc basis. World Without Genocide advocates for US support of the International Criminal Court.

Temporary Tribunals

The ICC has also played a part in establishing temporary international tribunals, building on the precedence set by criminal justice efforts of the Allies after World War II at the tribunals in Nuremberg, Tokyo, and elsewhere.

  • The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes occurring between January 1 and December 31, 1994 in Rwanda.

International Justice Day

International Justice Day, July 17, commemorates the movement to end atrocities and prosecute individuals who perpetuate human rights abuses. This is a day to reflect upon the victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and to celebrate the international community’s continued efforts to create a more just and peaceful world.

This day also commemorates other critically important achievements in holding parties accountable for atrocities in World War II, and in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia.

International Justice Day honors the international community’s efforts to provide and enforce human rights law promoting global peace, security, and well-being.