Established in 2002, the International Criminal Court is an independent judicial institution that investigates and prosecutes war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and the crime of aggression.
Most recently, the ICC said on March 17 it had issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in the abductions of children from Ukraine.
Based in The Hague, the ICC has the power to act where a state is “unable or unwilling genuinely” to do so itself. Currently, 123 countries are ICC members, giving the ICC authority, under its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by their nationals or by anyone on their territory, according to human rights advocacy organization Human Rights Watch. The U.S. and Israel are not among those countries.
Having been in operation since 2003, the ICC has opened more than two dozen cases based on investigations in 11 countries.
While the U.S. and Israel are not part of the ICC, there are cases when the ICC can take action against citizens of both countries, although not against the countries themselves. There are limited situations in which the ICC has jurisdiction over the nationals of countries such as the U.S. that have not joined the Rome Statute. This includes when a citizen of a non-member country commits war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide on the territory of an ICC member country.
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Palestine instigated an investigation by the ICC against Israel over war crimes in the occupied territories in 2021. The court decided it would proceed and investigate possible crimes committed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem since June 13, 2014. While the ICC could not take against Israel, if the investigation proved war crimes, then officials of Israel or Palestine could be in danger of being arrested by the ICC if they leave the country, The BBC reported. Israel refused to cooperate with the investigation. Palestinians joined the ICC in January 2015. Israel claimed the ICC is “acting without authority” in carrying out the probe. The investigation is ongoing.
The U.S. also does not recognize the jurisdiction of this legal body.
The exterior view of the International Criminal Court are pictured in The Hague, Netherlands, March 31, 2021. The International Criminal Court said March 17, 2023 it has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes because of his alleged involvement in abductions of children from Ukraine. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)