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International Criminal Court Fast Facts


Here’s a look at the International Criminal Court (ICC), a court comprised of 123 states from around the world.


Although created by the Rome Statute, a treaty first brought before the United Nations, the ICC operates as an independent entity.

The court is located in The Hague, Netherlands.

The ICC is the “court of last resort,” and came into force on July 1, 2002. The court tries four types of crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression and war crimes. It is not intended to replace a national justice system.

Currently, 137 states are signatories, but only 123 are considered parties to the treaty.

The United States is a signatory to the treaty, but not a party.

Cases are referred to the court by national governments or the United Nations Security Council.

The 18 judges serve nine-year terms.


July 17, 1998 – The Rome Statute is adopted by 120 states, informally establishing the permanent ICC. Seven members of the United Nations vote against the statute: the United States, China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar and Yemen.

July 1, 2002 – The Rome Statute enters into force after ratification by 60 countries.

October 12, 2016 – Burundi votes to withdraw from the ICC, but is still listed as a party.

October 21, 2016 – South Africa announces it is withdrawing from the ICC, saying parts of the Rome statute conflict with the country’s own laws which give heads-of-state, particularly ones they’re trying to reach peace and stability with, diplomatic immunity. In March 2017, South Africa officially cancels its withdrawal.

November 10, 2016 – Gambia notifies the ICC that it is withdrawing, citing bias against Africans. Gambia cancels its withdrawal in February 2017.

November 16, 2016 – Russia says it will withdraw its signature from the ICC treaty, under a directive signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

October 27, 2017 – Burundi effectively withdraws from the ICC, becoming the first member state to do so.

March 14, 2018 – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte says in a statement that the country has given notice that it will withdraw from the ICC. The announcement follows the ICC’s February 8 statement that it has started an inquiry into Duterte’s controversial war on drugs. The action goes into effect on March 17, 2019.

Selected Trials

Jean-Pierre Bemba

November 22, 2010 – The trial begins for former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is accused of three counts of war crimes and two counts of crimes against humanity for failing to keep his forces from raping and killing civilians in Central African Republic in 2002-2003.
March 21, 2016 – The ICC declares Bemba guilty on two counts of crimes against humanity and three counts of war crimes.
June 21, 2016 – Bemba is sentenced to 18 years in prison.
October 19, 2016 – The ICC convicts Bemba and four members of his legal team of interfering with witnesses during his original trial.
June 8, 2018 – Bemba’s 18-year jail sentence is overturned by the appeals court.
June 13, 2018 – The court orders Bemba’s “interim release,” pending sentencing on his other conviction.
September 17, 2018 – Bemba receives a one year suspended sentence and is fined 300,000 euros (almost $350,000) for his witness tampering conviction.

Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé

January 28, 2016 – The trial begins for former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo and former Ivorian politician Charles Blé Goudé. Gbagbo and Blé Goudé are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, for acts allegedly committed in 2010 and 2011.
January 15, 2019 – Gbagbo and Blé Goudé are acquitted from all charges of crimes against humanity by the ICC.
March 31, 2021 – The ICC Appeals Chamber upholds the acquittal of Gbago and Blé Goudé. As the decision is now final, the court also instructs the ICC Registrar to make arrangements for their safe transfer to a receiving state.

Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui

November 24, 2009 – The trial begins against former Congolese rebel leaders Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. They are accused of three counts of crimes against humanity and seven counts of war crimes stemming from attacks on the village of Bogoro that occurred between January and March 2003.
November 21, 2012 – The trial against Katanga and Ngudjolo Chui is separated into individual cases.
December 18, 2012 – Former rebel leader Ngudjolo Chui is acquitted of charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
March 7, 2014 – Katanga is found guilty “as an accessory to one count of a crime against humanity (murder) and counts of war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging)” for the 2003 attack.
May 23, 2014 – Katanga is sentenced to 12 years in prison.
January 18, 2016 – After an appeal for a sentence reduction, Katanga’s ICC jail term officially ends, although he remains in Congolese custody as the Democratic Republic of Congo investigates additional charges against him.

Thomas Lubanga

January 26, 2009 – The trial begins for Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, who is accused of “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 years and using them to participate actively in hostilities (child soldiers).”
March 14, 2012 – Lubanga is convicted of war crimes for using children under the age of 15 as soldiers.
July 10, 2012 – Lubanga is sentenced to 14 years in prison. He is the first person to be convicted and sentenced by the ICC.

March 15, 2020 – Lubanga is released from prison after serving 14 years.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi

September 27, 2016 – Islamic militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to war crimes for destroying religious and historic monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu, Mali. The trial marks the first time the ICC has tried the destruction of cultural heritage as a war crime.

Bosco Ntaganda

September 2, 2015 – The trial begins for Bosco Ntaganda, who stands accused of 13 counts of war crimes and five crimes against humanity which allegedly took place in 2002-2003 in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo.
August 28-30, 2018 – Closing arguments in Ntaganda’s trial take place.

July 2019 – Ntaganda is found guilty of all 18 crimes, which include murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlisting child soldiers, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation, pillage and intentionally directing attacks against civilians.

November 7, 2019 – Ntaganda is sentenced to 30 years in prison by unanimous vote. This is the longest sentence ever handed down by the ICC and Ntaganda is the first person to be convicted of sexual slavery by the ICC. Ntaganda’s time served from March 22, 2013 to present will be deducted from his sentence.

Dominic Ongwen

December 6, 2016 – The trial against Dominic Ongwen begins. Ongwen, who for years was a Lord’s Resistance Army commander, faces 70 charges involving war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed from 2002 to 2004 in northern Uganda.

February 4, 2021 – Ongwen is convicted of 61 of the 70 charges against him. The court can sentence Ongwen to up to 30 years imprisonment, or a life sentence in certain circumstances, according to the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding document.

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