The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the product of the international community’s resolve to ensure that those who commit genocide, crimes against humanity and grave war crimes are brought to justice. New Zealand has been a strong supporter of the ICC from its first conception, and worked actively with likeminded States and NGOs during the negotiations leading up to its establishment. On 7 September 2000 New Zealand became only the 17th State to ratify the Statute of the Court (the “Rome Statute”). In May/June 2010, the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute, a special meeting of the States Parties to the ICC to review the Statute and to consider amendments to it, was held in Kampala (Uganda). The primary outcome of the Review Conference was the conclusion of negotiations on the crime of aggression.
Unlike the International Court of Justice, the ICC has jurisdiction to try individuals rather than States or their governments. The ICC is intended to act as a court of last resort in cases of the gravest and most serious crimes. Its jurisdiction is complementary to national jurisdictions and it may only proceed with a case where a State is unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC has no retrospective jurisdiction and can only prosecute crimes that have been committed after the Rome Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 and over which a State that is party to the Rome Statute has jurisdiction. Over 100 States have adopted the jurisdiction of the ICC and become party to the Rome Statute.
The ICC Prosecutor is responsible for conducting investigations and bringing prosecutions before the Court. The Rome Statute and other rules of the ICC contain a series of important checks and balances to ensure that the Prosecutor only acts on the basis of substantiated evidence. The Prosecutor may start an investigation once a case has been referred by a State that is party to the Rome Statute or by the UN Security Council. The Prosecutor may also receive information on crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC from other sources such as NGOs. In such cases, the Prosecutor must seek the authorisation of the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber before commencing an investigation.
The ICC has 18 Judges, elected for a 9 year term by the States that are party to the Rome Statute. The election of judges takes account of the need to represent the world’s principal legal systems, fair representation of men and women, and equitable geographic jurisdiction.