International Criminal Court and its Members

A crime can be defined as an illegal activity or action for which a person can be punished by the law. But in modern criminal law, the term ‘crime’ does not have a universally accepted definition as such. In other words, crime or an offence is a harmful act against not just an individual but against a community, state and society. It is well known fact that law has no bounds, endless reach and immense power. This power is channeled and exercised on the citizens with the help of courts. Court can be technically defined as a body of people presided over by a judge, judges, a jury, or magistrate which acts as a tribunal in civil and criminal cases. There exist separate courts for all the different divisions of crime. Similar to these courts, there is an international court that oversees all international criminal activity.

ICC or the International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and an international tribunal which holds the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression. The ICC has four principle organs – The Presidency, the Judicial Divisions, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Registry. The President is the most senior person in the Judicial division, the judicial division hears the cases before the court. The Prosecutor heads the Office of Prosecutor and he investigates crimes and initiates all the proceedings of the case before the Judicial Division. The Registry manages all the administrative functions of the ICC. It is headed by the registrar. The International Criminal Court, though it is in the supreme position, it is still governed. The ICC is governed by an Assembly of States Parties. This assembly consists of those states who are party to the Rome Statute. This Assembly elects the officials of the court, approves the budget, and adopts any changes and amendments made to the Rome Statute.

In order to understand the relation between the members of the ICC, it is necessary to have knowledge about the Rome Statute. The Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court. On July 7 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted at a diplomatic conference held in Rome and four years later on July 1 2002, the treaty was enforced. According to current statistics, as of March 2019, there are 124 states that are party to the statue. The Rome Statute has established four core international crimes – Genocide, crime against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. Under the Rome Statue, the ICC has authority to investigate and prosecute cases under the four international crimes mentioned earlier, only in situations where states are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. The court has jurisdiction over these crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a state party or if the crime is committed by a national of a state party.

The ICC currently has 124 state parties, and Malaysia being one of them ratified by the Rome Statute, makes it the 124th Statue party to the ICC. Malaysia was reluctant towards ratifying it, even though it helped negotiate the Statute. But after 20 years, Malaysia has ratified the Rome statute. The question arising here is about why Malaysia has acceded to the Rome Statute after 20 years. The reason for Malaysia to accede to the Rome Statute could be due to the occurrence of two incidents, because of which Malaysia’s attention has been focused on the ICC. The first one is the downing of flight MH17 and the second, the Rohingya crisis. After Mahathir Mohamad was elected as the Prime Minister for the second time in May 2018, there has been some significant changes and shift in the relationship between the monarchy and the Malaysian government. The earlier resistance to ratify the Rome Statute arose out of concern to the king, as he was the head of the armed forces and could be held responsible for crimes committed by those under his command. Furthermore, Mahathir’s election and appointment of a new Attorney General Tommy Thomas have been main legal obstacles to ratification being removed. There is a good possibility that the ratification stemmed from the ambition to see Malaysia play a more active role in ASEAN and the UN.

However, after 20 years, Malaysia ratified the Rome Statute and successfully became the 124th state party to the International Criminal Court and it is about time that other countries follow suit.

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