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Some Questions you may have asked about the ICC

The Hague - Maybe you have confused the International Criminal Court with the International Cricket Council. Or you thought the court was part of the United Nations. As the state party members meet this month, here are five questions you may have asked:

What is the ICC?
The International Criminal Court is an independent institution of 124 members at present. South Africa, Burundi, and Gambia recently announced their intention to withdraw, which will take effect after a year.

Once a year, the states come together in The Hague or New York as the Assembly of States Parties (ASP). They are bound to a treaty known as the Rome Statute. The ICC is a “last resort” court that has jurisdiction where crimes are committed by or against individuals of a member state. The headquarters of the ICC are in The Hague, Netherlands, which has a long-standing reputation as the city of peace and justice. The ICC prosecutes those responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes. It can only investigate crimes committed after its founding date in 2002.

How do cases come to the ICC?
There are three ways.

The first is for a member state to refer a case, with a very clear definition of a time frame and territory.

The second is when the ICC prosecutor decides of her own accord to launch a case after receiving information from non-government organisations or individuals. A pre-trial chamber authorises the investigation.

The third is if the United Nations Security Council refers a case. The council’s permanent members are the United States, China, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom. They all have veto rights. Interestingly, only the France and the UK are member states. Some have accused the US, China, and Russia of having double standards for using the ICC, but not signing up as members. The position of these three nations is they do not want to give up some of their sovereignty (the authority to govern themselves).

What has been some of the criticism of the ICC?
The ICC has often been accused of bias against Africa. Only one of 10 countries the ICC opened inquiries into are not in Africa. Other concerns include heads of state and senior government officials not enjoying immunity while in power.

Who funds the ICC?
The member states fund the ICC, based on a formula that considers a country’s gross domestic product. Economic powerhouse Japan has been the biggest contributor for a while, whereas a country like Niger was too poor to give anything. Many countries are in arrears. While they could theoretically lose their voting rights for not being paid up, the ASP commonly waives voting restrictions.

Who is heading up the prosecution?
Member states appoint a chief prosecutor every nine years, for a single term. The current chief prosecutor is Gambian lawyer Fatou Bensouda. She took office in 2012.


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