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Status of ratification of the Rome Statute including the crime of aggression

by Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy Executive Director of WFM-IGP and CICC
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established by the Rome Statute on July 17, 1998 and entered into force on April 11, 2002. It is a universal and permanent tribunal which tries individuals, not states, for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and aggression. 
The NGO coalition for the ICC was formed in 1995 under the initiative and leadership of the WFM to promote a civil society campaign to assert the principle of the rule of law at the global level. There are now more than 2500 member organizations whose commitment is universal ratification of the Rome Statute.

2018 commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Rome Statute, while a large majority of members states of the United Nations are also States Parties to the Rome Statute, some regions are still underrepresented such as Asia and the Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa. Also, three out of the five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council with veto power to refer situations or defer situations are still not States Parties (China, Russia and the US). The lack of universality poses a challenge for the reach of the Court’s jurisdiction, leaving some regions exposed to impunity for mass atrocity crimes. 

With 25 cases and 11 situations, the Court needs full cooperation and access to conduct its mandate. Increased ratifications of the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court (APIC) gives ICC staff the privileges and immunities they require to effectively execute their mandate to provide justice for victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC has highlighted the value of visiting investigation in situation countries or preliminary examinations countries in order to be able to assess the admissibility of cases before the ICC. However, such access has sometimes been challenged by the lack of guarantees of privileges and immunities accorded to ICC personnel. Only by ratifying and implementing the APIC can states guarantee that officials are informed of the actual scope and realities of these privileges and immunities and of how to apply them in concrete situations. Yet only 77 states have ratified the agreement to date. 

Another challenge since the the Rome Conference was that it did not add the crime of aggression to the Statute, it provided however for a mechanism to review the question. And since the entry into force of the Statute in 2002, discussions continued until 2010 where the review Conference took place in Kampala, Uganda in June of that year. The Conference adopted the so called Kampala amendments to the Rome Statute. The first amendment criminalized the use of poison, asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases as weapons and the second amendment defined the crime of aggression. 
December 2017 during the 16th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP), in the very early hours of 15 December, 123 states reached consensus on bringing justice one step closer for victims of aggressive wars. For the first time since the post-World War II trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo, an international court may be able to hold leaders individually criminally responsible for the crime of aggression. 

While the adoption of the activation of the crime of aggression was a landmark accomplishment, in order to get a compromised agreement, the Assembly of States Parties decided to limit the scope of reach. The ASP decided that the ICC’s exercise of its jurisdiction over the crime of aggression would only apply to nationals of States Parties to the Rome Statute who have ratified the amendments. However, the ICC judges maintain their independence in ruling on jurisdictional matters. The activation of the crime of aggression will take place on International Justice Day - 17 July 2018. 

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) also the international justice program of the World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy played and continues to play a crucial role in the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute and the APIC. The CICC has mainstreamed its universal ratification campaign or campaign for global justice throughout its activities. With its key national members, the CICC convenes seminars, organizes awareness-raising events, training seminars towards galvanizing further understanding of and support for the Rome Statute and its implementation. With the main aim to ensure that no country is left behind, the CICC and its key national members focus on the full implementation of the principle of complementarity by strengthening national legislations and institutions to be able to investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression.

By: Jelena Pia-Comella, Deputy Executive Director of WFM-IGP and CICC
Status of ratifications as of March 2018

States Parties to the Rome Statute: 123
State of Palestine ratified on 2 January 2015
El Salvador ratified on 3 March 2016

Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court: 77
Peru ratified on 17 January 2017
Republic of Moldova ratified on 17 May 2017

Kampala Amendments:
Crime of Aggression: 35
Argentina ratified on 28 April 2017
Panama ratified on 6 December 2017
Article 8: 36
Panama ratified on 6 December 2017
State of Palestine ratified on 29 December 2017

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