The International Criminal Court: What You Need to Know

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a tribunal established in 2002 to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. The ICC is the world’s first permanent international criminal court, and its mandate is to complement national criminal jurisdictions. This article provides an overview of the ICC, including its history, structure, jurisdiction, and challenges.

History of the ICC

The ICC was created in response to the atrocities committed during World War II and other conflicts throughout the 20th century. The idea of an international criminal court was first proposed at the end of World War I, but it wasn’t until the Rome Statute was adopted in 1998 that the ICC became a reality. The Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002, and the ICC began operating as a permanent court.

Structure of the ICC

The ICC is made up of four main bodies: the Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry. The Presidency is responsible for the overall administration of the ICC and is made up of three judges who are elected by the other judges for a three-year term. The Judicial Divisions consist of the Pre-Trial Division, the Trial Division, and the Appeals Division, and they are responsible for conducting the judicial proceedings of the ICC. The Office of the Prosecutor is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC, and the Registry is responsible for providing support to the other three bodies.

Jurisdiction of the ICC

The ICC has jurisdiction over four main crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. The ICC can only exercise jurisdiction over these crimes if they were committed on the territory of a state party to the Rome Statute or by a national of a state party. The ICC can also exercise jurisdiction if the United Nations Security Council refers a situation to the Court, even if the situation is not within the territory or nationality jurisdiction of a state party.

Challenges Faced by the ICC

The ICC has faced several challenges since its creation. One of the main challenges is that not all countries are party to the Rome Statute, and therefore, the ICC’s jurisdiction is limited. Additionally, the ICC has faced criticism from some countries, including the United States, which has not ratified the Rome Statute. The ICC has also faced challenges in conducting investigations and prosecutions due to lack of cooperation from some states and the difficulty in obtaining evidence.


The International Criminal Court is a vital institution in the fight against impunity for international crimes. Despite the challenges it has faced, the ICC has made significant progress in prosecuting individuals responsible for the most serious crimes. However, the ICC’s success will depend on the support of the international community and the cooperation of states.


  1. What is the difference between the ICC and the International Court of Justice?
  2. Can the ICC prosecute sitting heads of state?
  3. How many cases has the ICC prosecuted since its creation?
  4. How is the ICC funded?
  5. What is the relationship between the ICC and national criminal jurisdictions?