American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court
The ICC > About the ICC > Establishment

Establishment of the ICC

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) was adopted at a United Nations (UN) diplomatic conference on July 17, 1998 by 120 countries after several years of UN negotiations. The ICC treaty entered into force on July 1, 2002, following the required 60th ratification. 139 countries ultimately signed the ICC treaty, and over 120 states have ratified or acceded to it.

Support for the ICC has been led by a coalition of America's friends and allies, including all members of the European Union and all members of NATO except the US and Turkey.

The ICC is supported by many states that have recently experienced severe crises as a result of ongoing impunity or attempts to try human rights violators within their domestic systems, including Argentina, Cambodia, Colombia, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Paraguay, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Uganda.

The US was involved with the ICC negotiations until early 2002 and made extensive contributions to the Rome Statute and its indispensable supplemental documents. These include provisions giving strong deference to national courts, an important role for the Security Council, due process rights drawn from the US Bill of Rights, and the definitions and elements of the ICC crimes.

An Independent Court

Slobodan Milosevic was tried by a UN tribunal, also in The Hague.The ICC is an independent judicial institution governed by the treaty that established it. It is accountable to the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the ICC which is responsible for managing and overseeing the Court, including approving its annual budget as well as electing and disciplining ICC officials. The ICC is located in The Hague, the Netherlands.

The ICC is not a UN body; it is not under the jurisdiction of the General Assembly or of the Secretary-General. It is not administered or paid for through the UN. The Court is linked to the UN in at least one crucial respect: the Security Council has the authority to refer investigations to it, or to temporarily suspend them. If the UN Security Council refers a situation to the ICC, then the UN membership as a whole may be assessed some portion of the Court's expenses relating to that specific investigation.

The Need for a Permanent ICC

There is no other court like the ICC. The ICC was formed as a universal response to past and present atrocities. Its creation is the culmination of fifty years of international efforts through the United Nations to create a permanent international judicial institution to try heinous crimes that are condemned by all governments, religions, cultures and peoples.

  • Unlike the International Court of Justice or "World Court," which is a UN organ and can only decide disputes between states, the ICC is a treaty-based criminal court that can only try individuals for designated atrocity crimes.
  • Unlike the two ad hoc International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which were created by the UN Security Council to deal with atrocity crimes in those regions during specific conflicts, the ICC is a permanent court that could, depending on the circumstances, investigate and prosecute any individual accused of committing an atrocity crime within the ICC's jurisdiction after July 1, 2002.