International Criminal Court

War criminals on trial

Individuals are responsible for their own actions in wartime. This is the principle that underlay the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2002. The ICC tries people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Its new permanent premises are being built here.

The establishment of the International Criminal Court was a historic milestone in the development of international law. Until that point, there had only been more or less temporary tribunals whose jurisdiction was confined to a single country or area, like the one for the Former Yugoslavia. The establishment of the ICC gave the international community a permanent judicial body able to try people accused of war crimes anywhere in the world. More than a hundred countries have ratified the Rome Statute (the legal basis for establishing the ICC).




In early 2011 there was a public uprising against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi. The insurgency spread until large parts of the country were in rebel hands. Government forces hit back hard. However, support from France, Britain and the US and the establishment of a NATO-enforced no-fly zone eventually turned the tide once and for all in favour of the rebels. The International Criminal Court issued an indictment against Gaddafi but the dictator was killed following a NATO airstrike on the convoy in which he was attempting to escape. The exact circumstances of his death have never been clarified but, however it came about, the ICC could close the case against him.




In 2003 a civil war broke out in Sudan. Opposition groups like the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) took up arms against the government, accusing it of oppressing the non-Arab population of Darfur. The government responded with ethnic cleansing and genocide. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir , which it holds responsible for these acts.

But the rebels have also committed war crimes. In 2007, for example, JEM fighters attacked the African Union peace mission in Sudan, killing twelve peacekeepers. The ICC holds Abdallah Banda responsible for this and in September 2014 it issued an arrest warrant against him.