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 International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression (although it cannot currently exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression).


The court 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 official seat of the court is in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings may take place anywhere.


As of March 2009, 108 states are members of the Court; A further 40 countries have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. However, a number of states, including China, Russia, India and the United States, are critical of the court and have not joined.


The ICC 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. The court 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 four situations: Northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur. The court has issued public arrest warrants for thirteen people; seven of them remain free, two have died, and four are in custody. The ICC's first trial, of Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga, began on 26 January 2009.

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