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Home  >  Resources  >  Tribunals  >  International Criminal Co...  >  The ICC's jurisdiction
Last modified on: 12.02.2016

The ICC's Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of the Court needs to be understood in different contexts:

  • jurisdiction ratione materiae, ( which answers the question of "which crimes can be tried before the ICC?")
  • jurisdiction ratione personae , ("who can be judged?")
  • and jurisdiction ratione temporis ("when might the crimes have been committed"?)


With respect to the Jurisdiction ratione materia , the crimes which can be tried before the International Court are four in number: Genocide, Crimes against humanity, War crimes and the crime of Aggression

The crime of genocide (Article 6 ot the Rome Statute) means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group by methods such as : Killing members of the group; Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; Forcibly transfering children of the group to another group;

Crimes against humanity (Article 7 of the Rome Statute) means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack. Murder; Extermination; Enslavement; Deportation or forcible transfer of population; Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; Torture; Rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognised as impermissible under international law, in connection with any act referred to in this paragraph or any crime within the jurisdiction of the Court Enforced disappearence of persons; The crime of apartheid; Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

War Crimes (Article 8 of the Rome Statute) means grave breaches of the dispositions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 as well as other serious violations of the laws and customs of war. It should be noted that a war crime can be committed within the framework of both national and international conflicts.

Crime of Aggression (Article 5 1 letter d of the Rome Statute): the definition of this crime could not be agreed upon at the Rome conference and it is foreseen to rediscuss this crime at the revision conference scheduled for 2009.

With respect to the jurisdiction rationae personae, the Rome Statute provides that the ICC only has jurisdiction over natural persons (Art. 25  1 of the Statute) at least eighteen years of age at the time the crime was alledgedly committed (Art. 26 of the Statute). There is no immunity under the Statute due to the official rank of the accused person. It should be noted that the question of pursuing moral persons was raised during the Rome conference. Nevertheless the discussion on this subject raised disagreements amongs so many States, that it was decided not to integrate this competence into the ICC.

Finally insofar as the jurisdiction rationae temporis is concerned the ICC has jurisdiction only for crimes committed after the entry into force of the Rome Statute (1st of July 2002). Furthermore, for States which become Parties subsequently, the competence of the ICC only holds for the crimes committed after the Statute comes into force for that State. But it would suffice that either the State where the crime was committed or that the nationality of the author of the crime be party to the Statute for the competence of the ICC to be aknowledged.

To conclude it is to be noted that the ICC is competent to pass sentence in three instances: imprisonment, fining and confiscation. Imprisonment is the principal sanction; confiscation and fining being accessory punishments (punishments which can be an adjunct to the principal sanction but which cannot be imposed independently).

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