The International Criminal Court: Jurisdiction, composition, Establishment and Constitution

Author: Muskan Chhabra


The international community recognise those crimes as international crimes whose prevention is important for the better interest of the international community. The interest of the international community is very crucial when it comes to crimes.  These crimes must be prevented as they are harmful to the usual course of international relationships and they also jeopardize international peace and security. Furthermore, a crime is an international crime or not is decided by the states altogether. And the factors which are taken into account for deciding the crime is an international crime or not are the nature of the crime and the relationship of the crime with the interests of the international community. Some of the few examples of international crimes are; slavery, narcotic drugs, counterfeiting etc. These crimes came to be recognised as international crimes during the time of the League of Nations. After that, the United Nations has played a pivotal role in the prevention of crime by formulating various standards and norms. Presently, there are a lot of crimes that are recognised as international crimes such as; piracy on high seas, genocide, traffic of children and women, hijacking, terrorism, taking of hostages, slave trade etc.


  1. The very first effort for the establishment of the international criminal court was made by the Committee of Jurists in 1920. The statute of the Permanent Court of International justice was drafted. The committee of jurists recommended the creation of the International Criminal Court. The purpose behind this recommendation of the court was to prevent crimes, to maintain public order and to create a universal law that defines international crimes and give punishment.
  2. The League of Nations has also put effort into the creation of the International Criminal Court by drafting a convention for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. But, the attempt to establish the International Criminal Court failed as the convention could not come into force due to a lack of ratification.
  3. After that, the establishment of the United Nations gave hope for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. As soon as the United Nations established, the proposal for the establishment of the International Criminal Court was made. The request was made to the General Assembly in 1950 and the International Law Commission studied the possibility of establishing an international criminal court. After studying, the commission came up with a decision that the establishment of the International Criminal Court is possible and advisable.
  4. The Meeting of the committee was held from March 16 to April 3, 1998. During this, the committee completed the preparation of the draft for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The conference was held at the Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome from June 15 to July 17, 1998. All the state members of the United Nations were invited to participate in the conference. Giovanni Conso of Italy was elected by the conference as the President and on July 17 1998, adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.


International Criminal Court has been established with four main objectives:
  1. The main purpose of the International Criminal Court is to make sure that the perpetrators are held accountable for the crimes they have committed. It has to ensure that the criminals are duly punished.
  2. The International Criminal Court is the court of last resort to investigate any case.
  3. The court has to ensure the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of international crimes such as genocide or crimes against humanity etc.
  4. Another important purpose of the International Criminal Court is to assist the states’ judiciaries in the investigation of the case and to punish the criminals.
  5. The International Criminal Court is established to promote international peace and security.


Constitution of the International Criminal Court consists of:

The International Criminal Court will have eighteen judges.

  • All the judges shall have an office for a tenure of nine years. They cannot be re-elected. One-third of the judges shall be selected for the tenure of three years, one-third of the judges shall be selected for the tenure of six years. And, the remaining judges shall be elected for the tenure of nine years.
  • The judges are selected based on their qualifications mentioned under the statute. They should be of high moral character, impartial and shall have the qualification required for their state’s highest judicial officer.
  • The judges shall perform their functions independently.


Article 34 of the statute lays down the organs of the International Criminal Court:
  1. The Presidency: It consists of the President and the First and Second Vice-President which are elected by the absolute majority and serve for the term of three years. They all can be re-elected. This organ has been established to look after the administration of the court.
  2. Appeals Division: The prosecutor can appeal the decision given by the trial chamber on any ground. That appeal is made to the appeal divisions. 
  3. Prosecutor: It shall consist of the Prosecutor and one or more deputy prosecutor for assistance. The prosecutor is a separate organ of the court and shall act independently. The office of the prosecutor is responsible for receiving the information regarding the crimes so that the court can examine and carry out the investigation of the said crime.
  4. Registry: It consists of the Registrar and the deputy registrar. The registrar is appointed for a term of five years and can be re-elected. The deputy registrar is appointed for the term of five years. The registry is responsible for the non-judicial functions of the court.


The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is restricted to the most serious and grave crimes. The crimes which are a concern to the international community come under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Article 5 of the statute lays down the jurisdiction of the court on the following crimes:

  1. The crimes against humanity: Crimes against humanity can be anything such as; apartheid, murder, slave trade, trafficking of women and children, rape, any kind of sexual violence, extermination etc.
  2. War crimes: It means a breach of the Geneva Convention, 1949. It includes torture, inhumane treatment, murder, serious injuries, mental harms etc.
  3. Genocide: Genocide means the killing of many people. It can be because of racial, ethical, religious or national reason. It includes killing members, causing grievous hurt, mental harm etc.


International Criminal Court plays a very important role in contributing to International justice. It is contributing to long-term peace. However, its functions have been limited. ICC relies on the states for their support as it does not have its force for making arrests or to send the accused to detention centres. It cannot a death sentence. The biggest limitation of ICC is that it lacks cooperation from the member states.