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International Criminal Court: Overview and Selected Legal Issues

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Publication Date: June 2002

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL31437

Topic: Justice (International courts)

Abstract:

On April 11, 2002, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court received its sixtieth ratification, meaning it will come into effect July 1, 2002, establishing the first global permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community." The United Nations, many human rights organizations, and most democratic nations have expressed support for the new court. The Bush Administration firmly opposes it and has formally renounced the U.S. obligations under the treaty. At the same time, however, the Administration has stressed that the United States shares the goal of the ICC's supporters � promotion of the rule of law � and does not intend to take any action to undermine the ICC.

The primary objection given by the United States in opposition to the treaty is the ICC's possible assertion of jurisdiction over U.S. soldiers charged with "war crimes" resulting from legitimate uses of force. The main issue faced by the current Congress is whether to adopt a policy aimed at preventing the ICC from becoming effective or whether to continue contributing to the development of the ICC in order to improve it.

This report provides an historical background of the negotiations for the Rome Statute, outlines the structure of the ICC as contained in the final Statute, and describes the jurisdiction of the ICC. The report identifies the specific crimes enumerated in the Rome Statute as supplemented by the draft elements of crime. A discussion of procedural safeguards follows, including reference to the draft procedural rules. The report then discusses the implications for the United States as a non-ratifying country when the ICC comes into being, and outlines some legislation enacted and proposed to regulate U.S. relations with the ICC, including versions of the American Servicemembers' Protection Act (ASPA) contained in H.R. 1646 and H.R. 4775, the American Servicemember and Citizen Protection Act, H.R. 4169, and the American Citizens' Protection and War Criminal Prosecution Act of 2001, S. 1296/H.R. 2699.