Dictionary of Gross Human Rights Violations
International Criminal Courts and Tribunals
There are a number of judicial bodies at the international level with responsibility for aspects of international criminal law. These can be divided into several categories:
- 1) The International Criminal Court – The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent international court with responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The court has jurisdiction over the territory and citizens of the states that have ratified the Rome statute. The temporal jurisdiction of the court extends from July 1st 2002 onwards.
- 2) Ad Hoc Tribunals – The ad hoc tribunals (such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, or ICTY, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or ICTR) differ from the International Criminal Court in that they are not permanent (they were created to address particular situations) and they were established by the United Nations (UN) Security Council rather than a broad-based treaty process. The fact that they were established by the UN Security Council (under Chapter VII of the UN Charter) means that these courts have powers to compel state cooperation that the ICC does not have. The UN is considering the idea of setting up an ad hoc or hybrid tribunal for Afghanistan.
- 3) Hybrid Tribunals – Hybrid tribunals, such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), have the following features: a) they are comprised of both national and international judges and staff, b) they are created to deal with specific situations (i.e. the gross human rights violations that occurred during the civil war in Sierra Leone), and c) they may have jurisdiction over both national and international crimes.
It is also necessary to distinguish between these international criminal courts (such as the International Criminal Court) and other courts dealing with public international law (such as the International Court of Justice, or ICJ). The ICJ (also sometimes referred to as the “World Court”) is a court that was created as an adjunct of the UN. The ICJ, which is seated in The Hague, has responsibility for disputes between states (i.e. territorial disputes and the responsibility of states for their violations of international law). The ICJ has no power to consider criminal cases or to attribute criminal responsibility to individuals responsible for violations of international criminal law.Back