The International Criminal Court (French: Cour Pénale Internationale; commonly referred to as the ICC or ICCt) is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
The court's creation perhaps constitutes the most significant reform of international law since 1945. It gives authority to the two bodies of international law that deal with treatment of individuals: human rights and humanitarian law.
It came into being on 1 July 2002—the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, entered into force—and it can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The court's official seat is in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings may take place anywhere.
As of April 2011, 114 states are members of the court, including all of South America, nearly all of Europe and roughly half the countries in Africa. For Grenada, the 115 state party, the Statute will enter into force on 1 August 2011. A further 34 countries, including Russia, have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute; one of them, Côte d'Ivoire, has accepted the Court's jurisdiction. The law of treaties obliges these states to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty. Three of these states—Israel, Sudan and the United States—have "unsigned" the Rome Statute, indicating that they no longer intend to become states parties and, as such, they have no legal obligations arising from their former representatives' signature of the statute. 44 United Nations member states have neither signed nor ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute; some of them, including China and India, are critical of the court. The Palestinian National Authority, which neither is nor represents a United Nations member state, has formally accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. It is unclear, however, if this acceptance is legally valid.
The court can generally exercise jurisdiction only in cases where the accused is a national of a state party, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. It is designed to complement existing national judicial systems: it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore left to individual states.
To date, the Court has opened investigations into six situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Uganda; the Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; the Republic of Kenya; and the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Of these six, three were referred to the Court by the states parties (Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic), two were referred by the United Nations Security Council (Darfur and Libya) and one was begun proprio motu by the Prosecutor (Kenya). Additionally, the Prosecutor has requested a Pre-Trial Chamber to authorize him to open another proprio motu investigation in the case of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire.
It publicly indicted 23 people, proceedings against 21 of whom are ongoing. The ICC has issued arrest warrants for 14 individuals and summonses to nine others. Five individuals are in custody and are being tried while eight individuals remain at large as fugitives (although one is reported to have died). Proceedings against two individuals have finished following the death of one and the dismissal of charges against the other.
As of April 2011, three trials against four people are underway: two trials regarding the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (with one of them scheduled to be closed in August 2011) and one trial regarding the Central African Republic. Another two people have been committed to a fourth trial in the situation of Darfur, Sudan. One confirmation of charges hearing (against one person in the situation of the DR Congo) is to start in July 2011 while two others (against a total of six persons in the situat