The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.
The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.
The international community has long aspired to the creation of a permanent international court, and, in the 20th century, it reached consensus on definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials addressed war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War.
In the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, tribunals like the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda were the result of consensus that impunity is unacceptable. However, because they were established to try crimes committed only within a specific time-frame and during a specific conflict, there was general agreement that an independent, permanent criminal court was needed.
On 17 July 1998, the international community reached an historic milestone when 120 States adopted the Rome Statute, the legal basis for establishing the permanent International Criminal Court.
The Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 after ratification by 60 countries.
ICC & African States
1 July 2012 marks the tenth anniversary of the formation of the International Criminal Court (ICC). When it came into force in 2002, the ICC was heralded as a new dawn for international criminal justice and as a means through which victims of international crimes would not only see justice being served, but would be part of the process.
There are 120 countries currently parties to the Rome Statute and 33 African states comprise nearly 30 percent of the court's membership, or over 60 percent of the continent's states. By the numbers alone, assuming that conflicts occur with similar frequency in each inhabited continent, a national of a member state found to be in violation of the provisions of the statute is statistically more likely to be from Africa than from any other continent.
Today, on the eve of the ICC’s anniversary, the ICC faces mounting criticism. Most critics of the court argue that it has unfairly focused on Africa. So far, all 24 people facing charges - and the only person convicted - are from Africa, leading to accusations of bias. The African Union has said members countries should stop cooperating with the Court.