INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT: WHEN DOES IT COME TO PLAY?

INTRODUCTION

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international court that exists in perpetuity. It was founded in 1998 in Rome by a convention of 160 governments and is situated in The Hague, Netherlands. As a result of that meeting, the Rome Statute was adopted and the International Criminal Court came into being. According to the Rome Statute, the Court may assemble somewhere else whenever the judges think it essential. Its purpose was to examine, punish, and prosecute individuals accused of the world’s most heinous crimes. The Court is funded by States Parties as well as charitable contributions from governments, international bodies, individuals, businesses, and other entities.

JURISDICTION OF ICC

Within the Rome Statute member nations, the ICC has jurisdiction over the offences covered by the Rome Statute. In cases where the defendant is a citizen of a state member of the statute or the offence was committed on the territory of such a state, the Court may exercise jurisdiction. Even if a nation is not a party to the legislation, it might choose to accept the jurisdiction of the court. On July 1, 2002, the ICC came into effect and has exclusive jurisdiction over incidents committed after that date. As long as a State does not issue a retrospective declaration admitting the ICC’s jurisdiction after it becomes a party to the Statute, the Court cannot exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed after its accession. However, the Court lacks jurisdiction over incidents that happened before July 1, 2002. Only individuals are prosecuted by the court. It does not prosecute countries and organizations. Anyone accused of committing crimes under the authority of the ICC might be brought before the court. The prosecution strategy of the Office of the Prosecutor is to concentrate on those who have the most responsibility for the offences. A person who is minor i.e., under the age of 18 at the time of the offence is not subject to the Court’s jurisdiction. On the good side, it is not influenced by political control. Whether it be the head of state or the common man, no one is exempt from criminal responsibility before ICC. Being an independent body, ICC’s decisions are not based upon any external force but on legal criteria.

ICC JURISDICTION OVER CRIMES

Individuals can only be sued for the offences specified in the Rome Statute. The act lists the following offences: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

Genocide

According to Article 6 of the Rome Statute, an act committed with the goal to eliminate a national, ethnic, or religious group is known as genocide. It includes killing members of the group, causing serious harm to members of the group, intentionally imposing life circumstances on the group that is meant to cause its bodily disintegration, actions aimed at controlling births within the group, and forcibly relocating children of the community to another community.

Crimes against humanity

Murder, banishment, interrogation, and rape are examples of crimes against humanity committed as part of a large or systematic onslaught on any civil community. Even if the crimes were not committed during a conflict, the ICC punishes the perpetrators.

War crimes

Cruelty, mutilation, capital punishment, hostage kidnapping, and terrorism are all examples of war crimes. This category also includes human-rights crimes such as rape and sex slavery, robbery, and hanging without a trial. War crimes, as opposed to crimes against humanity, are indeed perpetrated during wartime.

Crime of aggression

According to the definition of a crime of aggression, it is an act by one nation of deploying armed militia against the jurisdiction, territorial integrity, or democratic legitimacy of another nation.

HOW DOES THE ICC OPERATE?

Any state that is a party to the Rome Statute may request that the prosecutor conduct an inquiry. If the prosecutor obtains credible information regarding the offences, he may also initiate an inquiry. When a matter is reported to the prosecutor’s office, the prosecutor determines whether the court has jurisdiction over the offence. Following a comprehensive examination, he determines if there is a reasonable basis to proceed or not. The prosecution establishes whether the crime has been committed after 1 July 2002. Lastly, it notifies its intention to the concerned state and other state parties. If there is reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a crime, pre-trial chambers can issue an arrest warrant or summons to appear, and state authorities are responsible for enforcing the warrant. The pretrial chamber confirms the identity of the suspect as the suspect appears before the chamber. When the charges are verified, the Pre-Trial Chamber refers the matter to the Trial Chamber, which then moves on to the next stage of the proceedings: trial. The trial court ensures that the suspect understands the nature and ramifications of admitting guilt and that the confession is given freely and after consulting with his counsel. The admission should be backed up by the facts at hand and the accusations filed against the suspect. If the court believes that all of the criteria have been met, it may convict the suspect; if the court is not certain that the conditions have been met, it may order the trial to be prolonged.

CRITICAL APPRAISAL

The International Criminal Court has jurisdiction only over four crimes, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression. However, it does not address all international crimes. Additionally, it only exercises jurisdiction in cases involving crimes of aggression if those crimes are clearly defined. As well, the court does not have jurisdiction over terrorism issues, which might lead to the politicization of the court. In light of these factors, the International Criminal Court has been criticized frequently. The ICC legislation emphasizes the Court’s authority as complementary. If a national criminal justice system is incapable or unwilling to arbitrate the guilty of a crime, the ICC can make a decision.

CONCLUSION

Whether or not the International Criminal Court has universal jurisdiction is a subject of debate. In article 12 of the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court is granted jurisdiction over nations that are signatories to the Rome statute or which consent to undertake its jurisdiction. Hence, it can be said that the jurisdiction of the court is contingent on the consent of the nation. This demonstrates that the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction is not universal since it cannot be used in the absence of state permission. For making the jurisdiction of the court universal, it would need to exercise its power on the non-party states. But exercising power on the non-party states will render the purpose of the treaty, on which the court is based, defeated.

Author(s) Name: Aditi Jain (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala)

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