The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (the Statute) was adopted on 17 July 1998 at a United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. The Statute establishes an international criminal court to try individuals for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole and seeks to establish a fair and just international criminal justice system with competent and impartial judges and an independent prosecutor. Unlike an ad hoc tribunal, the Court is a permanent institution, which ensures that the international community can make immediate use of its services in the event of atrocities occurring and also acts as a deterrent to those who would perpetrate such crimes.
The Statute establishes a Court composed of the following organs: the Presidency, an Appeals Division, a Trial Division and a Pre-trial Division, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registry. Its judges will be persons of high moral character and integrity and in their selection the Parties will take into account the need for the representation of the principal legal systems of the world, equitable geographical distribution and a fair representation of female and male judges.
The Court is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. It is not intended to supersede their jurisdiction. It will act only when the national jurisdiction is unable or unwilling to genuinely prosecute, or in the case of referral by the Security Council.
The Court has jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. With respect to the crime of aggression, however, the Court will exercise jurisdiction once a definition of aggression that is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations is agreed upon and is adopted in accordance with the Statute.
In conformity with the principle of legality, the crimes are specified and defined in the Statute. A few examples of specific crimes include murder, extermination, conscripting or enlisting children under the age of fifteen, attacks against United Nations personnel and crimes of sexual violence such as rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced pregnancy.
In addition, the Preparatory Commission has elaborated Elements of Crimes, which are intended to assist the Court in the interpretations and applications of the articles defining the crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court.
The Statute applies equally to all persons without any distinction based on official capacity. Thus a Head of State or Government, a member of Government or parliament, an elected representative or a Government official is not exempt from criminal responsibility under the Statute.
Once a State ratifies or accedes to the Statute, it thereby accepts the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court may exercise its jurisdiction over a specific case when either the State in whose territory the crime was committed or the State of nationality of the accused is a Party to the Statute. A State which is not a Party to the Statute may also accept the jurisdiction of the Court on a case-by-case basis.
The Court may exercise jurisdiction with respect to a crime through a referral of a situation by a Party, the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, or by the Prosecutor acting pursuant to powers accorded under the Statute. The jurisdiction of the Court or the admissibility of a case is subject to challenge pursuant to provisions of the Statute.
ENTRY INTO FORCE
The Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 (article 126).