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Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • International war crimes judges ruled on 5th March 2020, that a probe into wartime abuses in Afghanistan must go ahead, including looking into possible atrocities committed by U.S. forces, as they overturned a previous court ruling.
  • The move was immediately hailed by human rights organisations as a “pivotal moment” for victims of the central Asian country’s 18-year-war since the 2001 U.S. invasion.

International Criminal Court ICC

  • International Criminal Court (ICC), permanent judicial body established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998).
  • The body was formed to prosecute and adjudicate individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
  • It is headquartered in the Netherlands at The Hague.
  • The ICC was established as a court of last resort to prosecute the most heinous offenses in cases where national courts fail to act.
  • Unlike the International Court of Justice, which hears disputes between states, the ICC handles prosecutions of individuals.
  • The court’s jurisdiction extends to offenses that occurred after July 1, 2002, that were committed either in a state that has ratified the agreement or by a national of such a state.
  • The court has eighteen judges, each from a different member country and elected by the member states. It requires its members to seek a gender-balanced bench, and the judiciary must include representatives of each of the United Nations’ five regions.
Members of the International Criminal Court 
Party Signed but never ratified Nonsignatory 
Note: Burundi and the Philippines joined the ICC but later withdrew. 
Sources; International Criminal Court; United Nations. 

What type of cases are taken up by the ICC?

The court has jurisdiction over four categories of crimes under international law:

  • Genocide, or the intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group;
  • War crimes, or grave breaches of the laws of war, which include the Geneva Conventions’ prohibitions on torture and attacks on civilian targets, such as hospitals or schools;
  • Crimes against humanity, or violations committed as part of large-scale attacks against civilian populations, including murder, rape, imprisonment, slavery, and torture; and
  • Crimes of aggression, or the use or threat of armed force by a state against the territorial integrity, sovereignty, or political independence of another state, or violations of the UN Charter.

How is an investigation opened in the ICC?

The court can open an investigation into possible crimes in one of three ways:

  1. A member country can refer a situation within its own territory to the court
  2. The UN Security Council can refer a situation
  3. The prosecutor can launch an investigation into a member state proprio motu, or “on one’s own initiative.”

The court can investigate individuals from nonmember states if the alleged offenses took place in a member state’s territory, if the nonmember state accepts the court’s jurisdiction, or with the Security Council’s authorization.

March 2024