On 12 June 2010 shortly after midnight, the first-ever Review Conference of the Rome Statute concluded in Kampala, Uganda. After a week of high-level discussions on the impact of the Rome Statute to date, ICC states parties came to an agreement regarding amendments to the Rome Statute pertaining to the crime of aggression.
States parties adopted a definition for the crime of aggression by consensus. The definition criminalizes the use of armed force by one State against another and carried out in contravention to the United Nations Charter. On this basis individuals responsible for unlawful acts of war may be subject to prosecution before the ICC. States also agreed upon a jurisdictional regime for the crime of aggression, which provides separate procedures depending on whether the situation was referred by the UN Security Council, or whether it came before the Court through a State referral or upon the ICC Prosecutor’s initiative. The Review Conference determined that the Court will not be able to exercise jurisdiction until 30 states have ratified the new amendment. In addition, states parties will have to make a positive decision to activate the jurisdiction after 1 January 2017.
‘The Coalition for the ICC is advocating for an end to impunity for all serious crimes, including the crime of aggression,” said CICC Convenor William R. Pace. “Although today’s agreement on the definition of the crime is a step forward for international justice, and more importantly for victims of this crime, the conditions agreed by states for the prosecution of the crime would leave many states out of the reach of justice,” he emphasized. “There also remains a question mark over when the Court will be able to exercise its jurisdiction over this crime of concern to the international community as a whole,” he added. “The Coalition is committed to work with like-minded-governments and other bodies to maintain the pressure on the UN Security Council of its very heavy responsibilities with regard to the crime of aggression.”
Important decisions were made on two other proposed amendments to the Rome Statute. First states agreed not to delete article 124 but to review it in five years. Article 124 is an optional protocol which allows states not to subject their nationals to the Court’s prosecutions or investigations over war crimes for a seven year period. Second, states accepted to extend the use of certain weapons as war crimes in non-international conflicts.
The Review Conference also helped identify areas in which the Court’s positive impact can be further strengthened. Debates focused on the impact of the Rome Statute on victims and affected communities, complementarity, cooperation, and peace and justice, issues truly central to the system’s fair, effective, and independent functioning. More than 600 Coalition members played a central role in enhancing the dialogue on the Rome system and ensured that the voices of civil society were truly heard through a number of events.
The Coalition and its global membership are committed to work to maintain the momentum with states, the UN, other regional bodies and the ICC to ensure commitments made in Kampala result in concrete actions.