International Criminal Court (ICC) and Gender

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The International Criminal Court (ICC), governed by the Rome Statute, is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands. Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.

History and Structure

The court came into being on 1 July 2002, the date its founding treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, entered into force, and it can only prosecute crimes committed on or after that date. The official seat of the court is in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings may take place anywhere.

As of March 2009, 108 states are members of the Court; A further 40 countries have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. However, a number of states, including China, Russia, India and the United States, are critical of the court and have not joined.


The ICC can generally exercise jurisdiction only in cases where the accused is a national of a state party, the alleged crime took place on the territory of a state party, or a situation is referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council. The court is designed to complement existing national judicial systems: it can exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes. Primary responsibility to investigate and punish crimes is therefore left to individual states.

To date, the court has opened investigations into four situations: Northern Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Darfur. The court has indicted fourteen people; seven of whom remain free, two have died, and five are in custody.

The Special Advisor to the Prosecutor on Gender Crimes

In November 2008, the ICC apointed a Special Adviser to the Prosecutor on Gender Crimes. Prof. Catharine A. MacKinnon will provide strategic advice to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) on sexual and gender violence, an area where expertise is required under Article 42(9) of the Rome Statute.

Professor MacKinnon will assist Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo and Deputy Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda - the OTP focal point for gender issues – and work with the Office’s Gender and Children Unit , the specialized unit working on gender issues across all the Office’s cases. Her immediate priority will be to further develop the approach to gender crimes in the Office’s cases. Professor MacKinnon will also be working on Office-wide strategic approaches to gender issues.


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