Skip to Main Content

International Criminal Law: Courts and Tribunals

A guide to online and print resources, including substantive and procedural law, secondary sources, journals and news.

United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals

Courts and Tribunals

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York.

The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

"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." 

"On July 17, 1998, 120 States adopted the Rome Statute, the legal basis for establishing the permanent International Criminal Court.  The Rome Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002 after ratification by 60 countries."

"The Khmer Rouge regime took power on 17 April 1975 and was overthrown on 7 January 1979. Perhaps up to three million people perished during this period of 3 years, 8 months and 20 days. The end of Khmer Rouge period was followed by a civil war. That war finally ended in 1998, when the Khmer Rouge political and military structures were dismantled.

In 2001 the Cambodian National Assembly passed a law to create a court to try serious crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime 1975-1979. This court is called the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed during the Period of Democratic Kampuchea Extraordinary Chambers or ECCC).

This special new court was created by the government and the UN but it will be independent of them. It is a Cambodian court with international participation that will apply international standards. It will provide a new role model for court operations in Cambodia."

"The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council approved a statue [HRCR] establishing the Iraqi Special Tribunal for Crimes Against Humanity on December 10, 2003. L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, signed the statute into law on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority." 

"The Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council were replaced by the Iraqi Interim Government on June 28, 2004.  Following the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly election on January 30, 2005, the Iraqi Transitional Government was established on May 3, 2005.  On August 11, 2005, the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly adopted a new Statute of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, which changed its name to "Higher Criminal Court" and brought its practices more into line with the rest of the Iraqi judicial system." 

"The Iraqi Special Tribunal is designed to prosecute those accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Iraq between July 17, 1968, when Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party seized power, and May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq were over. The court also has the authority to try several lesser crimes, including the squandering of public funds and attempts to manipulate the judiciary."