The Courts

There are six international criminal tribunals created either by treaty, an agreement between the Security Council and a country, or created by a Security Council resolution.  Each Tribunal hosts codified statutes and rules that make up the procedure and evidence guidelines for the proceedings.  The Six international criminal tribunals include: the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the first permanent international criminal tribunal. The ICC was established by treaty on 1 July 2001 when the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court entered into force. Governed by the Rome Statute, the ICC is an independent organization and is not controlled by the United Nations.  The seat of the ICC is the The Hague, The Netherlands.

The mandate of the ICC is to try those individuals most responsible for crimes under international human rights law and international humanitarian law; including, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  Jurisdiction before the court is based on referral to the ICC by the UN Security Council, for crimes which occur to or by an individual in a ICC member country, or if a non-member party submits itself to the jurisdiction of the ICC. As of March 2012, 120 countries were states parties to the Rome Statute of the ICC.

Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the Central African Republic (CAR), all of whom are states parties to the Rome Statute, referred cases to the ICC to prosecute former leaders. On 14 March 2012, the ICC delivered its first verdict against Congolese Thomas Lubanga Dyilo. It found Lubanga guilty of conscripting child soldiers and enlisting children in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The ICC is currently hearing cases against Congolese Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. The ICC issued arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and four members of the Lords Resistance Army, for their involvement in the situation in Uganda, and is currently mid-trial in the case of Congolese Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, who is accused of committing atrocities in the CAR.

The UN Security Council referred the situation in Darfur, Sudan to the ICC and the Office of the Prosecutor subsequently issued four international arrest warrants against top Sudanese officials, including sitting President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. All remain at large. Following the Arab Spring Uprisings, in February 2011 the Security Council referred the situation in Libya to the ICC. Deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed during the conflict and the remaining two named individuals, including Gaddafi’s son, are yet to be located.

The cases stemming from situations in Kenya, state party to the Rome Statute, and Ivory Coast, who accepted ICC jurisdiction, are ongoing. The ICC confirmed charges against four high-ranking Kenyan officials, for their involvement in violent clashes after the 2008 elections. Each of the men voluntarily appeared before the court. And Last November, Former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo was transferred to The Hague to begin trial for crimes against humanity.

For more information on the ICC, including case materials and Court documents, visit:

To view the ICC Statute, visit:

To view the ICC Rules of Procedure and Evidence, visit:


International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established to prosecute those responsible for crimes committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2001. The mandate of the ICTY covers atrocities committed in Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  The ICTY was created by the United Nation’s Resolution 827 on 25 May 1993, and was established pursuant to the UN Charter’s Chapter VII ‘Peace and Security’ authority.  As the first Tribunal to be created before conflict in the region had ceased, the UN hoped the Tribunal would deter further crimes and provide justice for victims who had witnessed or experienced the atrocities.

The ICTY sits in the The Hague, The Netherlands and has charged over 160 persons with crimes. The Tribunal has jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Enumerated in the Tribunal’s Statute, these violations include the crimes of murder, torture, rape, enslavement, destruction of property and other crimes. The ICTY’s objective is to charge and try those most responsible for committing these crimes. In creating the tribunal, the UN believed that guilt should be individualized so that no community or ethnic group was deem ‘collectively responsible’ for the crimes and atrocities. Those indicted before the ICTY have held varying degree of power over the committed atrocities with positions including heads of state, prime ministers, army chiefs, interior ministers and other political, military, and police leaders.

Currently, the Tribunal is entering its completion phase. Key cases include the case against Slobodan Milosevic, who died while in detention, Radovan Karadzic, and Ratko Mladic.  The trial of Radovan Karadzic began in 2010 and is expected to proceed for several years. In July 2011, Goran Hadzic was apprehended and turned over to ICTY custody; he was the last remaining ICTY accused at large.

For more information on the ICTY, including case materials and Court documents, visit:

To view the ICTY Statute, visit:

To view the ICTY Rules of Procedure and Evidence, visit:


International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was created on 8 November 1994 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.  UN Security Council Resolution 955 established the Tribunal in order to try those bearing the greatest responsibility for violations of international humanitarian law; including, genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.   Jurisdiction is granted to the ICTR if these crimes are committed by a Rwandan or in the territory of Rwanda between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.  In 1995, UN Resolution 977 established the court’s residency in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal is composed of three Trial Chambers consisting each of four judges and one Appeals Chamber consisting of four judges.  The Office of Prosecutor is divided into two sections; the investigations section and the prosecutions section.  The Registry is tasked with administration and management of the Tribunal, as well as, other legal functions.  The Defense is not considered an “organ” of the Tribunal, but instead, defense is provided to the accused through a contract basis.

The Tribunal mandate called for a completion strategy in which all investigations were completed by 2004, all trial proceedings were completed by 2008 and all Tribunal work was completed by 2012. As of March 2012, the ICTR had completed 42 cases, with 17 pending appeal and six in progress (including one defendant who is awaiting trial). Ten ICTR accused remain at large.

For more information on the ICTR, including case materials and Court documents, visit:

To view the ICTR Statute, visit:

To view the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence, visit:


Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL)

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) was established by the United Nations and the Government of Sierra Leone jointly, and with the mandate to “try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean Law committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since 30 November 1996.”  UN Security Council Resolution 1315, which established the Special Court, was issued on 14 August 2000 after Sierra Leonean President Kabbah wrote UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to ask for international assistance.

The creation of the Special Court came in response to the deaths and human rights violations caused by Sierra Leone’s civil war.  In 2003, the Prosecutor of the SCSL issued thirteen indictments for individuals representing the leadership of the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), the Civil Defense Forces (CDF) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), as well as former Liberian President Charles Taylor. Taylor in particular was accused of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity committed by the rebel groups mentioned above, and thus contributing to the destabilization of Sierra Leone.

The SCSL, seated in Freetown, completed the trials and appeals of the accused from the AFRC, CDF and RUF, resulting in the conviction of all eight defendants.  Charles Taylor currently awaits his trial judgment in The Hague, Netherlands for eleven counts listed in the indictment. His trial was moved to The Hague so as to avoid destabilizing the fragile post-conflict peace in the region. The trial judgment is expected 26 April 2012.

For more information on the Special Court, including case materials and Court documents, visit

To view the SCSL Statute, visit:

To view the SCSL Rules of Procedure and Evidence, visit:


Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was mandated to prosecute and try individuals related to the 14 February 2005 criminal and “terrorist” crimes in Beirut that resulted in the death of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other individuals.  Expansion of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to include attacks in Lebanon between October 2004 and December 2005 could be possible if these attacks “are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005.”

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is an international hybrid tribunal created by an agreement between the Lebanese government and the UN Security Council under Resolution 1664 on 29 March 2006.  The Tribunal’s creation and Statute entered into force on 30 May 2007 pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1757.  Article 2 of the Statute specifies that, unlike other hybrid tribunals, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will not apply international law but the Lebanese Criminal Code’s provisions on acts of terrorism and other crimes “against life and personal integrity.”

In June 2011, the identifications of four Hezbollah members were released by the STL; the four are charged with homicide, conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, and as accomplices to homicide and terrorism, among other crimes. In February of this year Trial Chambers authorized the trial in absentia of the four accused.

For more information on the STL, including case materials and Court documents, visit

To view the STL Statute and applicable law, including the Lebanese Rules of Procedure and Criminal Code, visit:


Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), or Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT)

The Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) was created after the government of Cambodia requested assistance from the United Nations in 1997.  The Cambodian government sought to try senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge responsible for genocide and other crimes against humanity, as a result of the nearly 3 million deaths that occurred from 1975 to 1979 during the Khmer Rouge regime.

In 1997, the Cambodian government created the Khmer Rouge Trial Task Force which set out to establish the legal structure that would conduct the trials against the Khmer Rouge leaders.  In 2001, the ECCC was officially created through legislation of the Cambodian National Assembly.  Though the Cambodian government asked for the assistance of the international community, it insisted that the trials should take place in Cambodia and mixed Cambodian and international judges and staff.

Case 001 against the accused, Kaing Guek Eav alias “Duch,” concluded and in February 2012 the Appeals Chamber issued a life sentence against Duch. Case 002 against Khmer Rouge leaders Nuon Chea, leng Sary, leng Thirith, and Khieu Samphan commenced in January of 2011 and is ongoing.

For more information on the ECCC, including case materials and Court documents, visit

To view the ECC Internal Rules and Regulations, visit:

To view the ECCC law establishing the Tribunal, visit:


Domestic Courts, Regional Tribunals, and other criminal courts

Those responsible for international war crimes or crimes against humanity are also being prosecuted by courts and tribunals besides the UN supported tribunals listed above.  Many countries and regions have established courts which are trying individuals for violations of human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Below is a list of tribunals, countries and regions participating in these prosecutions.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The Inter American Court for Human Rights

The International Crimes Tribunal of Bangladesh

Republic of Serbia, Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor

The Prosecutors Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina


International Court of Justice (ICJ)

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is tasked with resolving legal disputes between states or answering legal questions posed by United Nations organs or agencies. As the judicial arm of the UN, it can issue decisions in contentious cases or in an advisory capacity. For contentious cases, decisions are binding only upon the parties named in the proceedings.