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FACTBOX - What is the International Criminal Court?

April 29, 2024 at 2:22 pm

The exterior of the International Criminal Court is seen in The Hague, Netherlands. [Pierre Crom/Getty Images]

Israel is voicing concern that the International Criminal Court could be preparing to issue arrest warrants for government officials on charges related to its war against Palestine in the Gaza Strip.

The ICC is investigating Hamas’s 7 October cross-border attack and Israel’s shattering military assault on Gaza, now in its seventh month.

Here are some facts about the ICC.

The ICC was established in 2002 to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression when member states are unwilling or unable to do so themselves. It can prosecute crimes committed by nationals of member states or on the territory of member states by other actors. It has 124 member states. The budget for 2024 is about 187 million Euros.

The ICC is conducting 17 investigations, ranging from Ukraine and African states such as Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya, to Venezuela in Latin America and Asian nations, such as Myanmar and the Philippines, according to its website.

The website says there have, so far, been 31 cases before the Court, with some cases having more than one suspect. ICC judges have issued 42 arrest warrants.

READ: ICC cannot act against Israel without US backing, diplomat says

Twenty-one people have been held in the ICC detention centre and have appeared before the Court. Seventeen people remain at large. Charges have been dropped against seven people due to their deaths. The judges have issued 10 convictions and four acquittals.

Of those 10 convictions, only five have been for the Court’s core crimes of war crimes and crimes against humanity; the others were for crimes, like witness tampering. The five convicted men were all African militia leaders, from Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Uganda. Terms range from nine to 30 years in prison. The maximum possible term is life imprisonment.

A prominent fugitive is Russian President, Vladimir Putin, accused of the war crime of illegally deporting hundreds of children from Ukraine. The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Putin in March 2023. The Kremlin said the move was meaningless. Moscow has repeatedly denied accusations that its forces have committed atrocities during its invasion of its neighbour.

Although the Court is supported by many United Nations members and the European Union, other powers like the United States, China and Russia are not members, arguing the ICC could be used for politically motivated prosecutions.

Israel is not a member of the Court and does not recognise its jurisdiction, but the Palestinian Territories were admitted as a member state in 2015. In 2021, the ICC opened an official investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan, said in October last year that the Court had jurisdiction over any potential war crimes carried out by Hamas fighters in Israel and by Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

READ: Israel’s Netanyahu concerned about possible ICC arrest warrant

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.