QuickCheck: Are the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court the same?

THE rise in geopolitical tensions across the globe has brought terms and phrases often used only among political scientists into public attention, such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Last December, South Africa filed a case against Israel at ICJ alleging that its action in Gaza is tantamount to genocide.

Meanwhile, the ICC prosecutor was recently reported to be seeking arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas officials for war crimes.

Due to their relatively similar-sounding names and the fact that both are in The Hague - a city in the Netherlands - many people have assumed that the ICJ and ICC are one and the same.

Is this true?



The ICJ and ICC are different organisations at different locations in The Hague, with the ICJ established at the Peace Palace as a way to settle disputes between countries.

It is considered the judicial organ of the United Nations, to settle disputes based on international laws.

As such, the ICJ only accepts appearances from the UN's 193 member states and its decisions are conclusive and binding as a court that settles disputes, the ICJ does not have the power to convict or sentence individuals.

It instead relies on the UN Security Council to enforce decisions if a state fails to comply with its rulings.

On the other hand, the ICC is a criminal court that investigates and prosecutes individuals for crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocides and crimes of aggression.

The ICC operates on the principle that atrocities are crimes of universal concern that warrant international prosecution, and although the ICC is endorsed by the UN General Assembly, the court is legally independent of the UN.

Indeed as explained by the Mississippi College Law Review through a page on its website, the ICC steps in when "international prosecutions may be warranted when nations cannot or will not prosecute them on their own."

These actions are outlined under the Rome Statute - the treaty that governs the ICC - which has 124 state parties as of Feb 2023.

However, several countries, such as the United States, China and Russia are not signatories of the statute and therefore do not recognise its authority.

It is notable, however, that the US endorsed an arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Russia’s President Vladimir Putin over charges related to the deportation of Ukrainian children.








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