International Criminal Court

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international organization created by the Rome Statute[1], but not a part of the United Nations although it cooperates with the UN.[2] It became operational when 120 nations had signed that Treaty.

A number of major nations, including the United States of America and China, have not signed the treaty or accept the ICC's jurisdiction. Reasons vary, ranging from a concern that it infringes on national sovereignty,[3] to that it will be used in an unfair politicized manner under the rubric of "lawfare", essentially a new type of asymmetric warfare.[4]


As opposed to the International Court of Justice, which hears disputes among countries, the ICC is focused on individuals accused of crimes against humanity, such as genocide; genocide has been the most frequent charge, although the doctrines of hostis humani generis or just war theory presumably could establish other crimes such as piracy and slavery. It is the successor to ad hoc judicial processes such as the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg), the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Military Tribunal (Tokyo).


Lawfare, in the context discussed by Jack Goldsmith, is the use of international humanitarian law as a means of exerting the will of other nations on states with which they have ideological grievances. Goldsmith specifically calls the Court "self-defeating".[5] Other aspects of international law are being used among nations, such as maritime law by China; this would not be under ICC jurisdiction.[6] There is some sentiment, however, that a body like the ICC will be more just in applying universal jurisdiction than individual nations who have tried to extradite or prosecute individuals who neither performed the act in areas under their national jurisdictions, or against their citizens. This is a more extensive interpretation than actions taken against foreign defendants who are variously either resident in the country taking the action (e.g., Filartiga v. Pena-Irala) or by citizens of the national actor.


It is located at The Hague in the Netherlands, and funded primarily by its States Parties, as well as receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organizations, individuals, corporations and other entities.


  1. Rome Statute, International Criminal Court
  2. Agreement between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations, International Criminal Court
  3. Goldsmith, Jack Landman & Curtis Bradley (1997), "The Current Illegitimacy of International Human Rights Litigation", Fordham Law Review 66: 319
  4. Lawfare, the Latest in Asymmetries, Council on Foreign Relations, 18 March 2003
  5. Jack Goldsmith (2003), "The Self-Defeating International Criminal Court", University of Chicago Law Review
  6. James Kraska and Brian Wilson (11 March 2009), "China wages maritime "lawfare"", Foreign Policy