Role of the ICC

Starting in 2017, the International Criminal Court will be empowered to hold leaders accountable who are responsible for the most serious forms of the illegal use of force against other States. The Court will thus have a direct role in promoting the United Nations Charter and its quest for peace and security.

The ICC it the world’s first permanent independent tribunal established to end impunity for the worst crimes under international law: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression. The ICC started its operations in 2003 and has quickly become the centrepiece of international criminal justice. It is currently conducting trials, investigations and preliminary investigations in 15 situations on three continents. An excellent overview of its activities can be found on Wikipedia.

So far, the ICC has not been able to exercise its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression, because the founding conference held in Rome in 1998 failed to reach agreement on the definition of the crime. But at the 2010 Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda, ICC States Parties filled the gap and adopted amendments to the Rome Statute on the crime of aggression in a historic consensus decision.

As a consequence, the ICC will in the future be able to investigate and prosecute leaders of States that are responsible for crimes of aggression, i.e. the most serious forms of the illegal use of force against other States. To this end, 30 ratifications by States Parties are required as soon as possible, as well as a one-time decision of States Parties to activate the ICC’s jurisdiction, no earlier than 2017.

Once activated, the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression will serve as a deterrent against illegal war-making and other serious instances of illegal use of force. The Court’s reach in this regard is in principle global, as it will not only be competent to consider cases involving States Parties to the ICC, but also to consider crime of aggression upon referrals by the UN Security Council – in which case the consent of the State in question is irrelevant.