Understanding the International Criminal Court

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the International
Criminal Court
Helping build
a more just world

© I

“ The most 
serious crimes 
of concern to 
the international 
community as a 
whole must not 
go unpunished.”
Preamble to the Rome Statute of
the International Criminal Court

Published by the International Criminal Court
ISBN No. 92-9227-365-5
Copyright © International Criminal Court 2020 | All rights reserved
This is not an official document. It is intended for public information only.
This booklet is not for sale, reproduction or commercial use.
Oude Waalsdorperweg 10, 2597 AK, The Hague, The Netherlands
P.O. Box 19519, 2500 CM, The Hague, The Netherlands
Table of Contents
The ICC at a glance
The structure of the ICC
Crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC

Witness protection
Further information about the ICC
How does the ICC operate?
Victims’ participation
Referrals, analyses and investigations
Appeals and revision
Judgment and sentence
The trial
Confirmation of charges before trial
The rights of suspects

On 17 July 1998, 120 States adopted a statute in Rome – known as the Rome 
Statute of the International Criminal Court (“the Rome Statute”) – establishing the 
International Criminal Court. For the first time in the history of humankind,
States decided to accept the jurisdiction of a permanent international criminal 
court for the prosecution of the perpetrators of the most serious crimes 
committed in their territories or by their nationals after the entry into force of the 
Rome Statute on 1 July 2002.
The International Criminal Court is not a substitute for national courts. According 
to the Rome Statute, it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal 
jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes. 
The International Criminal Court can only intervene where a State is unable or 
unwilling to genuinely carry out the investigation and prosecute the perpetrators.
The primary mission of the International Criminal Court is to help put an end 
to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the 
international community as a whole, and thus to contribute to the prevention of 
such crimes.
A well-informed public can contribute to guaranteeing lasting respect for and the 
enforcement of international justice. The purpose of this booklet is to promote a 
better understanding of the International Criminal Court by providing answers to 
the most frequently asked questions about the Court.


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