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

The ICC works much like a criminal court in the United States, with similar participants and proceedings as well as rights and obligations.

Participants in the Proceedings


Judges are in charge of proceedings at the ICC. Three judges sit in each Pre-Trial and Trial Chamber, and five judges sit in the Appeals Chamber.

An ICC courtroom in The Hague. ICC-CPI.


The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) is responsible for receiving information about alleged crimes, investigating them and prosecuting cases within the Court's jurisdiction. Only the OTP can bring charges against a suspect and prosecute an accused person.


The Registry is responsible for administering the non-judicial aspects of the ICC, including security, detention, document filings and support to the defense, victims and witnesses. The Registry also organizes the logistics of courtroom hearings, including translation and transcription.


Defendants and suspects at the ICC enjoy most of the same rights and privileges as those in the US judicial systems. They have the right to be represented by counsel and to receive legal assistance if they are indigent.


The ICC is designed to give voice to victims through meaningful participation in the proceedings and to provide reparations - both innovations for international courts.

Stages of Investigation and Prosecution


A Pre-Trial Chamber, or one of its judges acting on that chamber's behalf, is responsible for all of the pre-trial proceedings that occur from the beginning of an investigation until a case is ready for trial. Its responsibilities include: authorizing the Prosecutor to investigate on her own initiative; issuing arrest warrants and summonses to appear; authorizing victims to participate in the proceedings; and conducting confirmation of charges hearings. A decision to confirm charges against a suspect sends the case against an accused person to trial.


The trial phase begins once a Pre-Trial Chamber has confirmed the charges and transfers the case to a Trial Chamber. The Trial Chamber determines the guilt or innocence of the accused person based on the evidence presented by the Prosecutor and the defense as well as evidence collected by the judges themselves. The judges determine the law and the facts. There is no jury at the ICC. In addition, "Where the personal interests of the victims are affected, the Court shall permit their views and concerns to be presented and considered at stages of the proceedings determined to be appropriate by the Court and in a manner which is not prejudicial to or inconsistent with the rights of the accused and a fair and impartial trial."

If a defendant is convicted, the Trial Chamber is also responsible for determining the sentence he or she will serve in prison - the Rome Statute does not permit the death penalty - and may order reparations to be paid from the convicted person or from the Court's Trust Fund for Victims.


Many of the important decisions and rulings of the pre-trial and trial proceedings, including the conviction and sentence, may be appealed by the convicted person or the Prosecutor. Some of these appeals may be made during the course of the proceedings, some requiring permission of the judges of the relevant chamber.