Home Law International Criminal Court: Key features, composition and functions

International Criminal Court: Key features, composition and functions

The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: Genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

April 8, 2021: The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt) is an intergovernmental organisation and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands.

Role played by the International Criminal Court

The ICC is the first and only permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals.

The ICC lacks universal territorial jurisdiction, and may only investigate and prosecute crimes committed within member states, crimes committed by nationals of member states, or crimes in situations referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council.

Image: ipleaders Blog

When did the International Criminal Court began its operations?

The ICC began operations on July 1, 2002, upon the entry into force of the Rome Statute, a multilateral treaty that serves as the court’s foundational and governing document. States which become party to the Rome Statute become members of the ICC, serving on the Assembly of States Parties, which administers the court. As of December 2020, there are 123 ICC member states; 42 states have neither signed nor become parties to the Rome Statute.

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The ICC has four principal organs: The Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecutor, and the Registry. The President is the most senior judge chosen by his or her peers in the Judicial Division, which hears cases before the Court.

 The Office of the Prosecutor is headed by the Prosecutor who investigates crimes and initiates criminal proceedings before the Judicial Division. The Registry is headed by the Registrar and is charged with managing all the administrative functions of the ICC, including the headquarters, detention unit, and public defense office.

Over 900 staff members from approximately 100 States are present.

There are six official languages: English, French, Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

The Office of the Prosecutor has opened 12 official investigations and is also conducting an additional nine preliminary examinations.

So far, 45 individuals have been indicted in the ICC, including Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, and DR Congo vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba.

Image: Utkal Today

Key features

  • Trials are fair ~

ICC judges conduct judicial proceedings and ensure the fairness of the court.

  • The prosecution is independent ~

The Office of the Prosecutor is an independent organ of the Court. The Prosecutor conducts preliminary examinations, investigations and is the only one who can bring cases before the Court.

  • Defendant’s rights are upheld ~

Defendants are entitled to public, fair proceedings that they can follow in a language they fully understand, and more.

  • Victim’s voices are heard ~

Victim’s voices are heard in the Courtroom, as the Rome Statute grants victims unprecedented rights to participate in ICC proceedings .

  • Participating victims and witnesses are protected ~

The ICC has a victim and witness protection program that uses both operational and procedural protective measures.

  • Outreach creates two-way dialogue ~

The Court engages in two-way dialogue directly with communities that have suffered from crimes under its jurisdiction, so that they can communicate directly with the Court and gain a sense of ownership in the judicial process.

Functions of the ICC

The core mandate of the ICC is to act as a court of last resort with the capacity to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national jurisdictions for any reason are unable or unwilling to do so.

The ICC contributes to the fight against impunity and the establishment of the rule of law by ensuring that the most severe crimes do not go unpunished and by promoting respect for international law.


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