Context: The deteriorating relationship between the US and the International Criminal Court (ICC) reached a new low after the U.S Government authorised sanctions against ICC officials.

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  • These are imposed on officials involved in investigations into possible war crimes by US troops or those of its allies.
  • The U.S has invoked a strict punitive measure which is generally reserved for human right violations or terrorist groups.
  • It broadened the visa restrictions on ICC officials directly involved in probes against its nationals or those of its allies.
    • It includes anyone who has assisted, sponsored, or provided financial or technological support to these officials. 
    • It also extends to the officials’ family members.

Factors contributing towards Sanctions:

  • The U.S considers the international forum as a threat to its sovereignty.
  • Further it has repeatedly called ICC as a Kangaroo Court (a court that ignores recognized standards of law or justice and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides)
  • The country also believes the court is more proximate towards Russia and works on its directions.
  • Lastly the country has evidence pointing towards corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels in the ICC.

Reactions to the move:

  • After the U.S move, ICC reacted by declaring  support for its officials. It called it an unacceptable attempt to interfere with the rule of law.
  • The EU, Germany and France came out in support of ICC while Israel backed the U.S over its move.

Timeline of U.S and ICC relations:

  • The Clinton administration (1993-2001) signed the Rome statute in 2000 but the move was revoked by George W. Bush in 2002.
  • Subsequent to this the American Service-Members’ Protection Act was passed  to protect US nationals from the ICC’s reach.
  • In Spite of differences there were some instances where Washington adopted a positive approach
    • In 2005 -  It did not veto a UN Security Council request to the ICC to investigate crimes during the Darfur crisis. 
    • In 2011 - It  voted for Libya’s referral to the court. 
    • It also provided critical support in transferring suspects from Africa to the ICC for trial.
  • Relations reaching a new low post Donald Trump's election in 2018 -
    • The U.S giving statements like the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.
    • In 2019 , the government didn’t give a visa to ICC’s chief prosecutor who wanted to probe atrocities committed by the U.S military in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.  


International Criminal Court 


  • It is a permanent judicial body based at The Hague in the Netherlands and is the world's first permanent international criminal court.
  • It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore exercise its jurisdiction only when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals. 

Founding Document

Created by the 1988 Rome Statute and began functioning in 2002.

Rationale behind Establishment

To prosecute offences that would otherwise go unpunished


Four main crimes: 

  • Genocide - It is the intentional action to destroy an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group.
  • Crimes against humanity - These are certain acts that are purposely committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.
  • War crimes - A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility.
    • Examples intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages etc..
  • Crime of aggression - A crime of aggression is a specific type of crime where a person plans, initiates, or executes an act of aggression using state military force that violates the Charter of the United Nations.
    • These include invasion, military occupation, annexation by the use of force, bombardment, and military blockade of ports.

The ICC lacks universal territorial jurisdiction, and may only investigate and prosecute crimes 

  • committed within member states, 
  • crimes committed by nationals of member states, or 
  • crimes in situations referred to the Court by the United Nations Security Council. 


123 Countries recognise its authority, some notable exceptions include India, ,Russia and U.S

Difference from ICJ (International Court of Justice)

  • ICJ is an organ of the UN while ICC is not.
  • ICJ mainly hears disputes between nations while ICC prosecutes individuals.


  • For not pursuing investigations in western countries (Till date all the convicts are from lower income or african countries).
  • For working inefficiently.

We must recognise that Justice is a key prerequisite for lasting peace and impartial functioning of courts like ICC is a sine qua non to achieve the same.​​


Image Source: ICC