What is the International Criminal Court (ICC)?

The ICC is the first ever permanent international court established to deal with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The Court will promote the rule of law and ensure that those responsible for the gravest international crimes are brought to justice.  The ICC will investigate and prosecute those most responsible for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in times of war and armed conflict.

The ICC is not part of the United Nations, but the Court does have an agreement with the UN to assist it in its’ investigations and operating with safety.
The ICC operates independently because it is a court, it is an international mechanism for justice alongside but independent from the UN.

The ICC was established by an international agreement, the Rome Statute, on July 17 1998.  The Rome Statute sets out the Courts jurisdiction, structures and functions.

The Rome Statute came into force, July 1 2002, when 60 states had ratified the Statute. Only crimes committed on or after this date can be prosecuted by the ICC.

What will the Court do?

It will try individuals - not states -- for what are considered to be among the most heinous crimes, when they occur in international or non-international armed conflict; genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

When can the Court exercise its Jurisdiction?

The Court can exercise its jurisdiction (investigate and prosecute) for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide if a situation where one or more of these crimes is:

  •  Referred to the Prosecutor by a Sate Party (as is the case of Uganda and the DRC);
  •  Referred to the Prosecutor by the Security Council of the United Nations (as is the case of Darfur); or,
  •  The Prosecutor initiates an investigation


The ICC will prosecute those most responsible for the worst crimes.  It expects that other perpetrators of these crimes will be investigated and brought to trial by the national judicial system. In other words, the Court will prosecute those bearing most responsibility for these crimes, but the majority of those who committed the crimes need to be brought to justice by the local police and courts.

Structure of the Court

Presidency – President and two Vice Presidents who are also judges

Chambers – 18 Judges who preside over the Court and decide who is guilty and their sentence, and also determines who are victims.

Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) – The Prosecutor, two Deputy Prosecutors (Deputy Prosecutor, Head of Investigations; Deputy Prosecutor, Head of Prosecutions). The OTP is responsible for investigating and prosecuting those most responsible for the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Registry – The Registrar is responsible for the running of the administrative side of the Court, including victims’ support, participation, legal representation, and security issues.  It works with the Prosecutor to ensure witnesses are protected and safe.

For more information about the International Criminal Court visit its website at http://www.icc-cpi.int/