The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent international tribunal seated at The Hague which was created by the multilateral treaty known as the Rome Statute.  The Rome Statute was adopted on July 17, 1998 and came into effect on July 1, 2002 after domestic ratification by sixty State Parties.  The ICC was created to prosecute the most serious international crimes.  Its mandate includes genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.  The crime of aggression was added by a subsequent review conference in Kampala, Uganda in 2010.

While the International Criminal Court, ICC, has the power to hear cases within its mandate, it operates on the principle of complementarity and will only exercise its jurisdiction if national courts with jurisdiction either cannot or will not prosecute perpetrators of international crimes. The ICC may exercise jurisdiction if an accused is a national of a State Party (or if the State otherwise accepts jurisdiction), if a relevant crime occurs in the territory of a State Party, or if a situation is referred by the U.N. Security Council pursuant to its Chapter VII authority under the U.N. Charter, even if the situation occurs in a state which is not a party to the Rome Statute.  The Prosecutor has the power to initiate investigations proprio motu, if information credibly alleging the commission of crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction is received from individuals or organizations. Jurisdiction is also limited to crimes occurring after July 1, 2002, or after the relevant state ratifies the Rome Statute, whichever is later.

To date, the Court has had four situations referred to it via State Parties, by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Mali. The U.N. Security Council has referred the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and the situation in Libya. Neither are State Parties. The Prosecutor has initiated investigations into the situation in Kenya and the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.

On March 31, 2005, the UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan to the ICC by Security Council Resolution 1593. Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo began the investigation on June 6, 2005. The first arrest warrants were issued February 7, 2007 for Ahmad Muhammad Harun and Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (known as Ali Kushayb).

Ahmad Muhammad Harun was the former Minister of State for the Interior of Sudan and the Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs. He is currently the governor of the state of South Kordofan. Harun is alleged to have used his position to coordinate, fund, and direct the activities of the Janjaweed. Ali Kushayb was a senior commander of the Janjaweed and has been charged with twenty-two counts of crimes against humanity and twenty-eight counts of war crimes. Both suspects are at large. Also at large is Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein, who formerly served as the longstanding Minister of National Defense and the President’s Special Representative in Darfur. He is currently the governor of Khartoum State. He was charged with multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity on March 1, 2012.

Omar al-Bashir

Omar al-Bashir

On March 4, 2009, the Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, charging him with multiple counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A second arrest warrant was later added on July 12, 2010, adding charges of genocide. The allegations against Bashir accuse the leader of directing and causing the atrocities committed in Darfur by his government and by government-backed militias. Though Bashir remains at large, the arrest warrants from the ICC prevent him from traveling to countries who are State Parties to the Rome Statute and added scrutiny and pressure to curb atrocities committed on behalf of the Sudanese government. Despite the warrants, al-Bashir won consecutive re-elections in 2010 and 2015.

Though the government of Sudan is the only faction to be accused of genocide, it is not the only one to accused of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC. In May of 2009, a summons to appear before the Court was issued for Bahar Idriss Abu Garda, Chairman and General Coordinator of Military Operations of the United Resistance Front on allegations of war crimes. However, following a hearing in February of 2010, charges were not confirmed. The Court rejected the Prosecutor’s appeal of the decision, and the case is considered closed unless new evidence is presented.

Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain, Commander of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus, former Chief of Staff for the Sudanese Liberation Army, both appeared voluntarily before the Court on June 17, 2010. Charges against both on three counts of war crimes were confirmed by the Court in March of 2011. In 2014, an arrest warrant was issued for Abdallah Banda Abakaer Nourain to ensure his presence at the trial. He is currently at large. Saleh Mohammed Jerbo Jamus died in April of 2013, and the charges against him were terminated in October 4, 2013.

This page was written jointly by Christie Nicoson, Exhibit Coordinator, Lisa Dailey, News Associate, and Rachel Hall Beecroft, Program and Operations Coordinator. This page was updated 1/24/18.

Download a one page PDF summary of this information here.

Other Resources

Report on the 12th Session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, 20-28 November 2013, The Hague, The Netherlands. [download]

Obtaining Victim Status for Purposes of Participating at the International Criminal Court, American University, December 2013. [download]

The Growing Importance of the International Criminal Court, by Naseem Kourosh, The Georgetown Journal, 27 January 2014.