• Send page
  • Print page

International criminal justice: The institutions

31-10-2013 Legal Fact Sheet

Although the idea dates back to the aftermath of the First World War, it was only in 1945 that the first successful international organs of criminal justice, the Nuremberg and Tokyo International Military Tribunals, were established, to address war crimes, crimes against peace and crimes against humanity committed during the Second World War.

Talks about the establishment of an international criminal court resurfaced half a century later with the end of the Cold War; in the meantime, the large-scale atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had prompted the United Nations to set up two ad hoc tribunals, in 1993 and 1994, respectively. A series of negotiations to establish a permanent international criminal court that would have jurisdiction over serious international crimes regardless of where they were committed subsequently led to the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in July 1998 in Rome. The Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 after 60 countries had become parties to it. It embodies the international community’s resolve to ensure that those who commit serious crimes do not go unpunished. The ICC is the first treaty-based, permanent international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of international concern. In the years that followed, two mixed tribunals, comprising elements of both international and domestic jurisdiction, and special chambers within national courts were established to try those responsible for crimes committed in specific contexts.