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Last modified on: 12.02.2016

The International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first international jurisdiction to have recognised worldwide relevance, and by the same token the first to have been set up in order to try all categories of international crimes which might be committed in the future.

Established by a Treaty, it was founded to advance the rule of law and to ensure that international crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and - once defined - crimes of agression) be checked and that their perpetrators do not go free.

The Rome Statute, the founding instrument of the ICC, was adopted on 17 th July 1998. It came into force on 1 st July 2002. In fact, two months beforehand, the 60 th ratification document was lodged with the Secretary ageneral of the United Nations. It is noteworthy that on this occasion, 10 States decided to join the ICC on the same day.

The Court is the result of much effort on the part of the International Community. Indeed one hundred and sixty states participated in the United Nations Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court which culminated in the adoption of the Rome Statute. Despite numerous differences of opinion,and myriad discussions, negotiations and compromises aimed at building widespread agreement amongst all the delegates, the Final Document and the Statute were finally readied to be presented for adoption.Of the total numbers voting, only seven States opposed adoption of the Statute, these including the United States, Israel, China, Nigeria, Sudan..120 States voted to adopt the Statute and 21 abstained.

Unlike the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, whose function is to rule on disputes between States, the ICC pronounces on the criminal responsibility of individuals, independent of their official or hierarchical rank.

Finally, it should be noted that the Rome Statute constitutes a major advance in the recognition of the rights of victims in international criminal law. In fact, contrary to what existed before the ICTR and the ICTY, Article 68 of the Rome Statute, not only enshrines their protection, but also provides for their participation and representation before the Court. For the very first time, victims have the right to participate at all stages of the preceedings to express their views, to make submissions and to be represented by counsel. Moreover, according to Article 75 of the Statute, victims are entitled to compensation. For further information on the situation of victims before the ICC, a handbook edited by Reporters Without Borders can be consulted.

First verdict of the ICC

On the 14th of March 2012, the ICC handed down its first verdict since the Court opened in 2002. Mr. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo has been found guilty of war crimes committed in Congo between 2002 and 2003. The Court concluded that he was responsible for the crime of recruiting child soldiers into the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).



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