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What is the International Criminal Court and how does the "Rome Statute" work?

In the world there are various mechanisms that attempt to maintain and regulate the social order and establish the rights of every human being on the planet. In fact, within the development plan of each nation, measures promoted by certain international organizations that seek to guarantee human rights must be applied.

In this regard, there are permanent international tribunals such as the ICCThe International Criminal Court, whose function is to condemn various crimes against humanity in different countries of the world, serving as a complement to local jurisdictions when criminalizing an act that violates human rights. In this article, we will explain what the International Criminal Court is and describe some of its functions.

What is the International Criminal Court?

The International Criminal Court is a permanent and universal international tribunal capable of prosecuting crimes against humanity, such as genocide, war crimes, among others. This court began its functions in 2003, and is the successor of the tribunals formed in the mid-1990s to condemn the crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda in 1994.

It was not until 1998, however, that a diplomatic conference of the United Nations was established, which gave structure to this center for documentation, research and analysis. Based on the basic principles of criminal law, which are:

  • "Nullum crimen sine lege". Translation: There is no crime without prior criminal law that typifies it.
  • "Nulla poena sine lege." Translation: No punishment if it is not previously established.

How did the International Criminal Court come into being?

The background of the International Criminal Court dates back to the end of World War II. A military tribunal formed by the Allied countries carried out a series of judicial proceedings to punish crimes against human dignity and integrity between 1939-1945. These are known as the Nuremberg Trials, the Doctors' Trials, the Judges' Trials and the Tokyo Trials, known as the first criminal proceedings against this type of crimes.

But since these fundamental rights were not specified and regulated, the trials were criticized for certain applications of the law and for not considering the principles of temporality and territoriality where the crimes were carried out. It is for this reason that, faced with the need for a judicial body to punish human rights violations under the principles of criminal law, international law and humanitarian law, the International Criminal Court was created. The International Criminal Court was created as an entity linked to the United Nations, capable of exercising jurisdiction over those territories that signed an agreement and promoted the Rome Statute.

What is the Rome Statute?

This is the legal instrument establishing the International Criminal Court. It is a document adopted at the 1998 United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Italy. It entered into force in 2002, after its proposal was concretized in a preamble and 13 parts. To function as a multilateral treaty signed by more than 150 countries, with the purpose of accepting the interference of this international legal form to penalize crimes against human rights.

The drafting of the Rome Statute was carried out after analyzing the most atrocious crimes in history, their consequences and legal penalties. It succeeded in identifying conducts qualified as inhumane acts that cause great harm, undermining the physical, mental and legal integrity of those who suffer them. Among the crimes that were identified we have:

Homicide, extermination, deportation or forced displacement, torture, rape, imprisonment, prostitution, sterilization, persecution, forced disappearance, kidnapping, among others.

What influence does the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute have on society?

The Court, in the exercise of its functions in due compliance with an international treaty (Rome Statute), does not function as a supranational body, but rather as an international entity that complements the legal systems of the countries that signed the agreement. In other words, they work in conjunction with the national criminal jurisdiction to exercise their competencies. It has the capacity to act in the event of a collapse of the national legal system, or if the State fails to fulfill its obligations to investigate and punish crimes against humanity in its territories.

In this sense, the International Criminal Court does not affect the sovereignty of member states, but rather urges national systems to comply with their treaty obligations. It is therefore important to remember that this mechanism is part of many other international tribunals that seek to criminalize and prevent the incidence of these crimes in all societies around the world.

What is the influence of the International Criminal Court in Venezuela?

In 2017, we conducted special research on the. Rome Statute and its application in Venezuelawhich establishes the influence that this court has in our country. Therefore, we invite you to review the information that we touched on there, to understand that the international incidence is to legitimize the jurisdictional action of a State. In other words, the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction is justified in cases of drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism and other transnational crimes. As long as the principles of each national system and jurisdiction are followed, and in the case of the Venezuelan Criminal Code, the proceedings are carried out by the Public Prosecutor's Office, while concurring with the principle of administration of subsidiary justice and global justice.

That is why Article 4.9 of the Venezuelan Penal Code states the possibility of extending its jurisdiction in cases outside its territory if they are committed by a Venezuelan or foreigner who has recently visited the region. But an excerpt from the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, of the rapporteur JOSE M. DELGADO OCANDO, Exp. 02-2154, Ruling No.: 3167 of 09/12/2002, regarding the request for interpretation on the content and scope of Article 29 of the Constitution, states:

"An ordinary criminal court cannot act ex officio in cases of complaints or accusations for the alleged commission of crimes against humanity, provided for in Article 29 of the Constitution; there must be an accusation or complaint by the Public Prosecutor's Office or by the victim - in which case, the respective documentation must be forwarded to the investigating body - after investigation of the facts in question and the respective investigation."

Therefore, it is necessary to remember that in the Venezuelan legislation there are not well defined penal norms to regulate crimes against humanity. Likewise, only some war crimes are typified in the Organic Code of Military Justice, so for the Venezuelan jurisdiction it is not something it can judge, because there are no legislative forms that typify the procedure to follow to condemn the abusive conducts committed by the State that affect the guarantee of human rights.

However, in December 2021, the Venezuelan National Assembly approved in first discussion the draft Special Law on the Crimes of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes, with which Venezuela takes a step forward in the field of Human Rights in accordance with the provisions of the Rome Statute. Although to date the legislative house has not issued any further information on progress in this regard.

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