Global Policy Forum

The International Criminal Court

Picture Credit: van Zeijst

The International Criminal Court (ICC) brings individuals to trial who commit large-scale political crimes – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Building on the UN's special tribunals and on new legal precedents of universal jurisdiction, the ICC takes an important step towards global accountability for all, including political and military leaders.

Since its establishment in 2002, the Court has made good strides forward in fighting impunity and holding the perpetrators of the most serious crimes accountable. The Court, however, faces many difficult challenges, particularly in relation to the cooperation of states and its independence. The US, for instance, is still not a member of the ICC and the Court has faced fierce US opposition

The former Bush administration refused to cooperate with the Court and consistently hindered its work. The Obama administration has so far made greater efforts to engage with the Court. The Obama approach remains cautious, however, due to its concerns over possible charges against American troops and diplomats. The Court has also been criticized by international observers and African leaders for applying double standards. They argue that it places undue focus on the African continent while neglecting human rights violations in western countries. To date, formal ICC investigations have only been opened into the situations of African countries.

This page follows the investigations, indictments and proceedings of the Court.

General Documents, Analysis and Articles on the ICC

This section provides an overview of the International Criminal Court, including key documents, articles, and analysis on the Court's purpose, its principles, and jurisdiction. The page also includes discussion on the challenges facing the ICC.

ICC Investigations

This page covers cases brought before the International Criminal Court, including investigations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Uganda, the Darfur region of Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya and Libya
This section explores the relationship between the ICC and the Security Council. Under the ICC's Rome Statute, the Security Council has the power to trigger action by the Court and to obstruct prosecutions. But the ICC has proven to be a powerful force affecting the Council's agenda as well: the US repeatedly disrupted the Council's operations by abusing its veto in order to demonstrate objections to the Court.

The ICC in the Security Council

The Security Council has the power under the ICC's Rome Statute to trigger action by the Court and to obstruct prosecutions. The United States has several times pushed the Security Council to adopt resolutions exempting UN peacekeepers and US militaries from the jurisdiction of the Court. The Security Council also referred the Darfur situation to the ICC for further investigations in 2005. This Security Council dominance over the ICC threatens the Court's legitimacy as an independent institution.

US Opposition to the ICC

The United States government has consistently opposed an international court that could hold US military and political leaders to a uniform global standard of justice. Unable to secure protection from ICC prosecution, the former Bush administration pressured individual countries to sign bilateral immunity agreements. The Obama administration has shown new positive signs in engaging with the Court, but its approach remains cautious.

NGOs and the ICC

The NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court (CICC) played an influential role in the establishment of the Court. The CICC now includes over 2,000 NGOs worldwide, united in their support for a fair and effective International Criminal Court.

Links and Resources

This section contains links and resources to other sites and organizations that cover the International Criminal Court.


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