Jurisdiction and Admissibility



The Court may exercise jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  These crimes are defined in detail in the Rome Statute.  In addition, a supplementary text of the “Elements of Crimes” provides a breakdown of the elements of each crime.   

The Court has jurisdiction over individuals accused of these crimes.  This includes those directly responsible for committing the crimes as well as others who may be liable for the crimes, for example by aiding, abetting or otherwise assisting in the commission of a crime.  The latter group also includes military commanders or other superiors whose responsibility is defined in the Statute.

The Court does not have universal jurisdiction.  The Court may only exercise jurisdiction if:

  • The accused is a national of a State Party or a State otherwise accepting the jurisdiction of the Court;
  • The crime took place on the territory of a State Party or a State otherwise accepting the jurisdiction of the Court; or
  • The United Nations Security Council has referred the situation to the Prosecutor, irrespective of the nationality of the accused or the location of the crime.

The Court’s jurisdiction is further limited to events taking place since 1 July 2002.  In addition, if a State joins the Court after 1 July 2002, the Court only has jurisdiction after the Statute entered into force for that State.  Such a State may nonetheless accept the jurisdiction of the Court for the period before the Statute’s entry into force.  However, in no case can the Court exercise jurisdiction over events before 1 July 2002.

Even where the Court has jurisdiction, it will not necessarily act.  The principle of “complementarity” provides that certain cases will be inadmissible even though the Court has jurisdiction.  In general, a case will be inadmissible if it has been or is being investigated or prosecuted by a State with jurisdiction.  However, a case may be admissible if the investigating or prosecuting State is unwilling or unable to genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution.  For example, a case would be admissible if national proceedings were undertaken for the purpose of shielding the person from criminal responsibility.  In addition, a case will be inadmissible if it is not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court.