American Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for the International Criminal Court
The ICC > About the ICC

The Promise of a Permanent International Criminal Court

Most of history's worst killers have gone unpunished. Josef Stalin said, "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." The ICC represents a strong and growing commitment by the international community to end impunity for atrocity crimes in the 21st Century.

The ICC in The Hague. Max Koot/ICC-CPI.

After violent armed conflicts or other massive assaults on civilian populations, many countries remain mired in cycles of violence and retribution. Prosecuting individuals for atrocity crimes can:

  • Achieve justice for the victims and for society and help create respect for the rule of law;
  • Counter attempts to blame nations or ethnic, religious, or other groups as a whole for the crimes of individuals;
  • Isolate and incapacitate criminal leaders so that they can be removed from active political participation;
  • Acknowledge and condemn the suffering of victims and survivors;
  • Establish an accurate historical record; and
  • Act as a deterrent to future criminals.

These benefits can be advanced by the mere existence of the ICC. States will be encouraged to investigate and prosecute atrocity crimes because, if they do not, the ICC may find it necessary to pursue its own investigations and prosecutions.

Only When Domestic Justice Is Not Possible

The ICC is designed as a court of last resort. The Court must defer to national proceedings - whether or not they lead to prosecution - except if there is no functioning judicial system or the national proceedings are intended to shield a suspect from prosecution.