How Far International Criminal Court of Justice Has Been Successful So Far

How Far International Criminal Court of Justice Has Been Successful So Far


From the early phase of human civilization man has an appetite on committing crime. As there is crime there is law as there is law there is punishment. During the course of history world has witnessed crime of different kinds. As crime become complicated so do the law. From the Hammurabi code to Roman law to the Indian penal code law has changed so many times. Throughout history man has witnessed so many atrocities, genocide, mass murder which force us to think about how much humane we are. Bloodthirsty monsters like Genghis Khan, Hitler; Ivan the terrible in the name of quest and glory butchered millions of innocent lives, destroying properties. It seems these crimes against humanity would go unpunished and only the powerful would rule the world and weak would be suppressed but things have changed. World is no longer a place where a person could do anything of his will. There are laws and rules of different kinds which restricts these criminals to unleash their evil plans. The plan of this kind of global watchdog that would protect the interest of humanity started long ago.

Armed conflicts and serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law continue to victimize millions of people allover the world. As a result more than 86 million people have lost their vary lives or stripped off from their property since the end of second world war. The word leaders have done a little from these innocent souls or their loved ones. Most victims have been forgotten and only a few culprits have been brought to justice. A culture of impunity seems to have prevailed.

The conflicts of today’s world often rooted in the failure to repair yesterday’s injury. The  fight against impunity is not only a matter of justice but also is also extricably bound up with the search for lasting peace in post conflict situations. Unless the injuries suffered by the victims and their families are readdressed wounds will stay in and conflicts would go on and on in future. Accountability is therefore an indispensable component for peace making.

In response to this horrific bloodshed on July 1998 over 150 national delegations came together in Rome the capital city of   Italy to create the International Criminal Court (ICC). Its mission and mandate was clear: to make accountable and bring to justice individuals responsible for the worst crimes, namely genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Today, 110 countries have signed under the Court’s treaty, and now the Court is working on its first cases.[1]


There are existence of international treaties and customs which have produced a plethora of rules, laws and norms which prohibits atrocities such as genocide war crimes and crimes against humanity. It also forbids the use of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons as well as poison gas. Unfortunately the record of these application and enforcement of these laws are so rare. Most of the time the culprits remain at large and continue his wanton vandalism. While states are competent and often legally obligated under international law to investigate, prosecute and punish such violations, states often been either unable or unwilling to apply the law. In reality only a few perpetrators have in ever been brought to justice.[2]

In the late 40’s there were three human right projects were brought before the United Nation General Assembly for consideration such as a universal declaration of human rights, a convention to prevent genocide and an international criminal court. Both Universal Declaration of human Rights and the genocide convention were adopted in 1948. But the proposal for a criminal court has proven to be far more controversial and it would be after nearly 50 years before a statute would be adopted in 1998.

In 1948, United Nations General Assembly first assigned in 1948 the project to the international law commission which concluded at its first session in 1949 that the establishment of such a court was both desirable and possible. The general assembly then decided to assign the preparation of the draft statute to another committee established by the Assembly itself. When a draft statute was prepared assembly postponed consideration pending the adaptation of the definition of aggression. But in 1974 when the definition of aggression was adopted the project on the court was further postponded. Several other attempts to create such institution during the following years were unsuccessful. It was not until 1990, 40 years after its initial involvement the general assembly once again invited the International Law Commission to examine the matter. This action was in part a response to the 1989 initiative of Trinidad & Tobago to find effective means for combating illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs across national frontiers and other criminal activities. The commission was requested to conduct this work within the framework of its project ongoing since 1947 in preparing a draft code of crimes against the peace and security of Mankind. It was only in 1993 that the General Assembly   finally decided to give priority to the preparation of the draft statute for a criminal court. The commission completed its work and preparation of the draft statute for a criminal court. The assembly in 1994 with the recommendation that a conference of be convinced in order to conclude a convention on the establishment of an International Criminal court.[3]


The International Law Commission (ILC) Draft Statute recognized two categories of  crime over which the International Criminal Court might exercise jurisdiction. The first category consisted of crimes such as genocide, aggression, serious violation of laws and customs applicable in armed conflict and crimes against humanity. The second category consisted of a list of crimes established under relevant treaty regimes and included grave breached of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 Additional Protocol I thereto, apartheid, torture and acts of terrorism and illicit traffic of narcotic materials. In later discussions the two categories of crime become known respectively as the core crimes and the treaty crimes.

From the beginning of the preparatory negotiations, a clear trend emerged in favor of limiting the jurisdiction of the court to the core crimes. It was considered that this would promote the broadcast acceptance of the court and would enhance the credibility and moral authority of the court. However the concept of core crimes was not always understood uniformly and some delegations regarded one or two of the treaty crimes as core crimes. This applied in particular to the crimes relating to terrorism and drug trafficking. When the Rome conference started the crimes under discussion were into three conceptual categories. The first category consisted only of the crime of aggression for which doubts exists as to the desirability and feasibility of its inclusion in the Statute. The third category of crimes consisted of the treaty crimes namely crimes of terrorism, drug trafficking and violation of the convention on the safety of United Nations and Associated Personal. A clear majority of states had consistently opposed inclusion of these treaty crimes, particularly the first two as they were widely regarded as crimes of a different character for which effective systems of international cooperation were already in place.[4]

During the negotiation that lead to the Rome Statute a large number of states argued that the court should be allowed to exercise universal jurisdiction. How ever this proposal was defeated due in large part of opposition from the United States. A compromise  was reached which allows the court to exercise jurisdiction only under the following limited circumstances

1.Where the person accused of committing a crime is a national or state party (or where the person’s state has accepted the jurisdiction of the court)

2.Where the alleged crime was committed on a territory of        a state party (or where the state on those territory the crime was committed has accepted the jurisdiction of the court)

3. Where a situation is referred to the court by the United Nation Security Council.

The court’s jurisdiction doesn’t apply retroactivity. It only prosecute crimes committed on of after July 2002 (The date on which the Rome Statute entered into force). Where a state becomes party to the Rome Stature after that date, the court can exercise jurisdiction automatically with respect to crimes committed after the statute enters into force for that state.

The International Criminal court is governed by assembly of States Parties. The court consists of four organs such as the presidency, the judicial division, the office of the prosecutor and the registry.

The courts management oversight and legislative body, the assembly of States parties consists of one representatives from each state parties. Each state party has one vote and every effort has to be made to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus can’t be reached decisions are made by vote. The assembly is presided over by one president and two vice presidents who are elected by the members to three year terms.

The assembly meets in full session once a year in New York or The Hague and may also hold special sessions where circumstances require. Sessions are open to observer states as well as non governmental organizations.

The assembly elects the judges and prosecutors decides the courts budget, adopts important texts such as the Rules of Procedure and evidence and provides management oversight to the other organs of the court. Article 46 of the Roman Statute allows the assembly to remove from from office a judge or prosecutor who is found to have committed serious misconduct or serious breach of his or her duties or is unable to exercise the functions required by this statute.[5]

Success or Failure:

International Criminal Court’s Success or failure isn’t exempt from controversy. The controversy wither the organization is successful one or not is still going on. After it’s establishment of twelve years it has faced so may challenges, controversy as well as accusation of being unfair to weaker parties. Even some people against whom they have filed case accused them being a collaborator of imperialists and fascists. They have also accused International Criminal Court to bias towards powerful states and their alleys. Critics also argue that they can only take steps against countries who are weak, who does not have any influence in international political arena. Perhaps the biggest achievement of International Criminal Court is establishing a universal criminal law for all countries.It has established a court  which will have jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that committed since July 2002 to the extent that those states that ordinarily would have jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to prosecute. The critics of ICC regularly assert that the organization is very much dominated as well as manipulated by United States of America it want to defend its citizens from prosecution. Although since The Nuremberg and Tokyo trail no other country was keener on international criminal justice than US. It has supported and continue its support for judicial accountability in places like Cambodia and Liberia. It is also said that these situation may not concern the Americans but this not true. Tens and thousands of US troops were stationed on the territory of the former republic of Yugoslavia since the Dayton Agreement of 1995 they were not excluded from the International Criminal Court jurisdiction.[6] After its introduction back in 1998 the court has received complains about alleged crime crimes in at least 139 countries. But till date the prosecutors has opened investigation into just five areas Uganda , Congo DR, Central African Republic, Sudan(Darfur) and Kenya. In Uganda the government, the state party referred to the prothe situation concerning Lords Resistance Army a armed group of Northern part of the country. on July 2005 the court issued warrant for the Lords Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony his deputy Vince Otti. The LRA leader repeated demanded immunity from ICC prosecution in return for an end of conflict.  In Congo DR the government who is the state party referred to the prosecuter that the situation of crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court allegedly committed anywhere in the territory of the DRC since the entry into force of the Rome Statute, on 1 July 2002. On 27th March 2007 Thomas Lubanda former leader of Union of Congolese Patriot an insurgent group became the first person under a warrant issued by th court for conspirating  and enlisting children under 15 using them to participate in hostilie conflicts. Two more suspects German Katanga and Matheu Choi have been surrendered to the court by Congolese authority.  Both men were charged with six counts of war crimes and three other counts of crimes against humanity. On December 2004 the government of central African Republic a state party referred to the prosecutor “the situation of crimes within the jurisdiction of the court committed anywhere on the territory of the Central African Republic since 1 July 2002, the date of entry into force of the Rome Statute.” Which leads to an issuing an arrest warrant for Jean Pirre Bamba a former vice president of Congo DR charging him with war crime and crime against humanity committed when he interfered in the events of CAR in 2002 and 2003. He was arrested in Brussels on the following day. On the case of Sudan’s Darfur Region a lot of warrants have been issued. On 27th February the prosecutor announced that two men Ahmed Muhamed Harun, Sudanese Humanitarian Affairs minister and Janjaweed militia which is a pro gevernment armed group accused of killing thousands in Sudan’s Darfur region  leader Ali Kasadb accused of war crime and crime against humanity. on may 2007 the court issued arrest warrant for the two men. How ever Sudanese government refuses to hand over the suspects. On 14th July 2008 the  prosecutor announced that Current Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir is accused of genocide and crime aganist humanity.  On 4th March 2009 an arrest warrant has issued for him. He was the first sitting head of the state indicted by International criminal court.  So far the countries and the persons  who have been accused by this court are really a small number which put the court’s validity. All of these five countries are mostly poor African states and all of them could be leveled as failed states. These countries have almost no position in the world politics. They are not recognized as big powers. As a result it puts a real question of the purpose of this court. Is the court only for some poor failed African states or is the organizations goal is for global peace and stability. The court haven’t accused anyone in related with 2003 invasion of Iraq by a multi national force headed by USA. The war has cost thousands of innocent lives, millions got displaced any every rule of Geneva convention were  broken. Deliberately civilians were targeted and yet International Criminal Court remains silent. Even thousands of activists across US , UK and Australia demanded impeachment of the head of the states of respective countries there were no steps from International Criminal Court. After getting complain about the Iraq war against International Criminal court stated that “ The International Criminal Court has a mandate to examine the conduct during the conflict, but not whether the decision to engage in armed conflict was legal.”   They also added that “there was a reasonable basis to believe that a limited number of war crimes had been committed in Iraq, but that the crimes allegedly committed by nationals of states parties did not appear to meet the required gravity threshold for an ICC investigation.”[7] International Criminal court also received complains about extra judicial killing, execution style murder and genocide in Afghanistan but  there were no proper investigation. International Criminal Court also puts a blind eye on Israel’s actions over Gaza Strip and West Bank. Although  International Criminal Court The issue arises because although the International Criminal Court    has a global jurisdiction to investigate crimes which fall into its remit no matter where they were committed it seems West Bank and Gaza don’t exist in world map as they couldn’t  investigate on those area as some member states don’t consider Palestine as a sovereign territory. On  the other hand despite having signed the Rome statute that founded the court and having expressed deep sympathy with the court’s goals Israel never accused and accountable for its crime in those areas and they don’t even considered as a party.


Although International Criminal court has been established to protect humanity but in various issues they couldn’t come up with a proper solution. Especially the issues of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine . Although they have successfully conducted operation in African countries such as Congo, Uganda and Sudan but on the American or Israeli matters they seem to do nothing. Although there are indication that they would try human right violators of these countries but it seems fading.


The International Criminal Court: the making of the Rome Statute by Roy S Lee 1999

The International Criminal Court: A Global Civil Society by Marlies Glasius 2007

The international criminal court: global politics and the quest for justice by Joseph P. Zompetti  2004

The International Court of Justice: its future role after fifty years by J. M. Thuránszky and  A. Sam Muller 1999

The International Court of Justice: The secret of its success by William Schabas 2008

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[1] United Nations Department of Public Information, December 2002.

[2] Roy S Lee(1999) The International Criminal Court: the making of the Rome Statute pp.3

[3] Marlies Glasius(2007) The International Criminal Court: A Global Civil Society PP.73

[4] Joseph P. Zompetti (2004)The international criminal court: global politics and the quest for justice PP 35-37

[5] J. M. Thuránszky, A. Sam Muller (1999) The International Court of Justice: its future role after fifty years

[6] William Schabas(2008) The International Court of Justice: The secret of its success

[7] International Criminal Court, 17 October 2006. Report on the activities of the Court