International Criminal Court (ICC)


The International Criminal Court, the only permanent court of its kind, is a pillar of the global international criminal justice system. Responsible for trying perpetrators of the most serious international crimes, it enables justice to be granted to victims and helps prevent these crimes from reoccurring. France fully supports this court by contributing to its budget, promoting its universality and responding to its requests for judicial cooperation.

What is the International Criminal Court and how does it work?

The ICC was created by the Rome Statute. There are 123 States Parties, including France, which signed the Statute on 18 July 1998 and ratified it on 9 June 2000. The Statute entered into force on 1 July 2002 after the ratification by 60 States.

The jurisdiction of the Court is limited to the “most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole” committed after the Rome Statute entered into force, namely:

  • the crime of genocide;
  • crimes against humanity;
  • war crimes;
  • the crime of aggression, added following the first Review Conference of the Rome Statute in June 2010.

The Court does not have universal jurisdiction.

Its jurisdiction only applies to crimes committed by nationals of States Parties or Non-States Parties that have recognized its jurisdiction through declaration, and crimes committed in such States. The Court may also exercise its jurisdiction for crimes that have been referred to it by the United Nations Security Council, in accordance with a resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Court’s jurisdiction is governed by the principle of complementarity.

It does not relieve States of their primary responsibility and only intervenes when the States have been unable, or did not wish, to try crimes under their jurisdiction.

The Court is not a United Nations body. However, it is part of the international system to fight against impunity, and prevent and handle crises.

As of 3 August 2023, 31 cases in 17 situations had been referred to the Court, subject to investigation (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic (I and II), Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Georgia, Burundi, Bangladesh/Myanmar, Afghanistan, the State of Palestine, the Philippines, Venezuela (I), and Ukraine).

The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has opened preliminary examinations regarding crimes allegedly committed in Nigeria, Venezuela (II) and Democratic Republic of the Congo (II).

How is the ICC governed?

The Rome Statute created three bodies:

  • the International Criminal Court,
  • the Assembly of States Parties,
  • and the Trust Fund for Victims.

The Assembly of States Parties (ASP) is made up of representatives of States Parties. It provides general guidelines while respecting the independence of the Court and makes decisions relating to how it operates (in particular by electing judges and the Prosecutor and by approving the ICC’s budget).

The Trust Fund for Victims was created by the ASP to grant individual reparations to victims by executing reparations orders handed down by the Court. It also contributes to their rehabilitation through psychological and physical recovery and material support. The Fund has financed projects in Uganda, the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The International Criminal Court is made up of four bodies:

  • the Presidency (made up of three judges) is responsible for external relations with States, organizes the Divisions’ judicial work and supervises the administrative work of the Registry;
  • the Judicial Divisions – the Pre-Trial Division, the Trial Division and the Appeals Division – carry out judicial proceedings;
  • the Office of the Prosecutor carries out preliminary analyses, investigations and prosecutions;
  • the Registry carries out non-judicial activities related to safety, interpretation, information and outreach or support to lawyers for the defence and victims.

Recruitment process for judges at the ICC

Every three years, the ASP elects six new judges, a third of the 18 ICC judges, for a term of nine years. The most recent election of Judges to the ICC took place at the 2020 session of the ASP. The next election will take place at its 22nd session in December 2023, in New York.

The candidates for the position of judge at the ICC are presented by the States Parties. The election of judges is governed by a unique procedure that aims to ensure, insofar as possible, that there is a balanced bench with regard to legal expertise, geographical representation and gender.

In February 2003, Claude Jorda was the first French judge elected to the ICC, replaced by Bruno Cotte on 30 November 2007. Bruno Cotte remained in the position until 31 May 2014. Marc Perrin de Brichambaut is the current French judge; his term will expire in March 2024.

France’s consistent commitment to the ICC

France contributed to the development and promotion of the Rome Statute and role of the Court in the global system fighting impunity. This commitment is reflected by constant support to the ICC.

Some of France’s commitments include:

  • promoting the universality of the Rome Statute,
  • fully and totally cooperating with the Court,
  • supporting NGOs working in this field.

France promotes these commitments among its partners.

These commitments can also be seen at the multilateral level, at the Human Rights Council, the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council. Wherever necessary, France endeavours to improve the cooperation of all States with the ICC in the framework of the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions.

It was at France’s instigation that the Security Council referred the situations in Darfur and Libya to the ICC.

France’s work relating to the ICC was stepped up following the introduction of a European framework on combatting impunity. Every year, France organizes events that highlight the role and action of the ICC.

On 24 October 2022, with the French Court of Cassation, it jointly organized a symposium on the complementarity between the ICC and States, to mark the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of the Rome Statute.

Fulfilling cooperation obligations with the ICC

France’s cooperation with the ICC is consistent and strong.

French criminal law was changed to comply with the obligations of cooperation and the principle of complementarity, provided for in the Rome Statute. France fulfils requests for judicial cooperation and also provides the Court with significant operational assistance. It is one of the States that cooperates the most, outside of the States where there are situations under investigation.

  • In 2021, France responded to some thirty requests for mutual assistance from the ICC. Furthermore, it forwarded a dozen requests for cooperation from the Specialized Unit within the Paris Court of Justice for crimes against humanity and war crimes to the ICC.

France also played an important role in creating and implementing the Trust Fund for Victims. It pays a voluntary contribution to the Fund every year.

France was the third-highest contributor to the Court’s budget in 2022, and on 11 October 2021 it signed a cooperation agreement on the enforcement of sentences issued by the Court.

France was among the first States to support the organization of an audit of the Court with the aim of strengthening it.

More information on the International Criminal Court

Updated: August 2023