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The International Criminal Court

January 2011

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The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, 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. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands.

The international community has long aspired to the creation of a permanent international court, and, in the 20th century, it reached consensus on definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials addressed war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War.

In the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, tribunals like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda were the result of consensus that impunity is unacceptable. However, because they were established to try crimes committed only within a specific time-frame and during a specific conflict, there was general agreement that an independent, permanent criminal court was needed.

On 17 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 1 July 2002 after ratification by 60 countries. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed after this entry into force.


The ICC is a court of last resort. It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility. In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes.


The Court may exercise jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. These crimes are defined in detail in the Rome Statute.

The Court does not have universal jurisdiction. The Court may only exercise jurisdiction if:
- The accused is a national of a State Party or a State otherwise accepting the jurisdiction of the Court;
- The crime took place on the territory of a State Party or a State otherwise accepting the jurisdiction of the Court; or
- The United Nations Security Council has referred the situation to the Prosecutor, irrespective of the nationality of the accused or the location of the crime.

FIACAT belongs to the International Coalition of NGOs for the ICC set up in 1995. As part of this group, it has closely followed the drafting and adoption of the Court’s statute (in Rome in 1998) and was overjoyed at the Court’s inauguration in 2003.

For further information:

- ICC Website

- Coalition for an International Criminal Court

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