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10 things you should know about the International Criminal Court

From 16-24 November 2016, the Assembly of States Parties of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, to discuss progress made over the year. South Africa’s move to withdraw from the ICC is likely going to be an important topic of discussion. Here’s what you should know about the ICC.

How many states are members of the ICC?
There are 124 member states.

How many countries are pulling out of the ICC?
Three. South Africa, The Gambia and Burundi. It takes a year from delivery of the notice of intention to withdraw to the formal withdrawal from the ICC.

Is the ICC part of the United Nations (UN)?
No, but they do work together, in instances where peace troops are needed inside a member state. The UN Security Council, which consists of Russia, China, France, the US and the UK each have the power to veto investigations of the ICC.

Are all the members of the UN Security Council also members of the ICC?
No. Three countries (Russia, US and China) are not member states of the ICC. These countries believe that being a member state of the ICC dilutes their sovereignty (the right to govern your own affairs within your borders).

Who can the ICC prosecute?
The ICC prosecutes individuals who are responsible for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. They do not prosecute someone solely for being the leader of a party or group that is responsible for these crimes, though.

How does the ICC decide to prosecute crimes?
There are three ways that the ICC Prosecutor can take on a case:

  • An ICC member state can point out an issue in another country – but the territory and time frame must be clearly defined,
  • The UN Security Council can refer an issue to the ICC – like they did with Darfur in 2005 and Libya in 2011.
  • The Prosecutor can decide to look into a case proprio motu (of her own initiative), by doing a preliminary investigation of allegations and then requesting that the judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber authorise an investigation.

From when can crimes be investigated?
The founding document of the ICC – the Rome Statute – was ratified in 2002, so only crimes committed after this can be investigated.

Who appoints the Prosecutor?
Member states of the ICC vote for a new Prosecutor every nine years. The Prosecutor can run for a maximum of two consecutive terms.

Who finances the ICC?
The ICC is financed by the member states. Its biggest donor is Japan because they are a strong economic power, but not all member states can contribute to the running because they cannot afford it.

How do we keep track of what’s going on at the ICC?
Each year a report is released by the prosecutor and a strategy for the coming year is outlined.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons
1 Comment
  1. therealmidnite says

    I have to admit that I didn’t know those five fat parasites on the Insecurity Council had the power to simply veto any ICC investigation (a naive oversight on my part, I suppose). I’ve always known that the Insecurity Council simply allows the five most violent military-industrial complexes in the history of mankind to turn the UN into their personal PR machine, but I always had the idea that the ICC was somehow seperate. Silly me. This changes the entire debate about the ICC for me, at least.

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