The International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals responsible for the most serious crimes under international law, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, was adopted on 17 July 1998 by 120 States, and entered into force on 1 July 2002 – the date the Court became operational. As of January 2018, 123 States are parties to the Rome Statute.
The ICC outlines the key considerations for countries considering acceding to the Rome Statute.
Why join the Rome Statute?
While there is no obligation to do so, joining the Rome Statute provides States with numerous benefits:
- Supports victims – allowing victims to have a voice and legal representation in proceedings, as well as access to assistance, compensation and rehabilitation.
- Strengthens foreign policy – shows commitment to international law, peace and security, and strengthens diplomatic relations.
- Prevents future crimes – sends a clear signal that perpetrators will be held responsible for committing crimes under the jurisdiction of the Court.
- Holds perpetrators accountable – shows that no one is above the law and that all individuals, regardless of official capacity, can be brought to justice for grave international crimes.
- Strengthens criminal justice system – acceding States Parties must enact domestic legislation which provides the opportunity to exercise domestic jurisdiction over core international crimes, thereby strengthening their own criminal justice systems.
- Allows input into the Court’s governance – through participation in the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute, which meets at least once a year.
What is an acceding state committing to?
As outlined in the 2006 “Plan of action of the Assembly of States Parties for achieving universality and full implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC”, States Parties commit to:
- Promote universal implementation of the Rome Statute
- Provide technical and financial assistance to States wishing to become party to the Rome Statute and implement it in their national legislation
- Promote the attendance of non-States Parties to the sessions of the Assembly of States Parties
- Support and cooperate with the Court
How does the Rome Statute affect the ICC’s jurisdiction?
The ICC has no power to investigate events that took place before 1 July 2002 – the date that the Rome Statute entered into force.
For States that ratify or accede after this date, the Court has jurisdiction for crimes committed only after the Rome Statute has entered into force in that State Party, unless that State declares otherwise.