United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, 1998 - Volume I
United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, 1998 - Volume II
United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, 1998 - Volume III
See too:
- ICC website
- Rome Statute website
- ILC website

Main Page > International Criminal Court, 1998

United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment
of an International Criminal Court, 1998

The International Law Commission began its consideration of a draft code of offences at its first session, in 1949, when the Commission appointed Mr. Spiropoulos (Greece) as Special Rapporteur for the subject. It proceeded with its work at its third, fifth and sixth sessions, in 1951, 1953 and 1954, respectively. At its third session, in 1951, the Commission completed a draft Code of Offences against the Peace and Security of Mankind and submitted it to the General Assembly, together with commentaries thereto. The Commission refrained from providing for institutional arrangements for implementing the Code; it thought that, pending the establishment of an international criminal court, the Code might be applied by national courts. At its sixth session, in 1954, the Commission adopted a revised draft Code of Offences against the Peace and Security of Mankind, with commentaries.  

The General Assembly, in resolution 897 (IX) of 4 December 1954, considering that the draft Code raised problems closely related to that of the definition of aggression, decided to postpone further consideration of the draft Code until the new Special Committee on the Question of Defining Aggression had submitted its report. The report of the Special Committee was before the General Assembly at its twelfth session, in 1957. At that session, the General Assembly took note of the report and decided to postpone consideration of the question of aggression and the Code to a later stage.

The General Assembly, by resolution 36/106 of 10 December 1981, invited the International Law Commission to resume its work with a view to elaborating the draft Code of Offences against the Peace and Security of Mankind. At its thirty-fourth session, in 1982, the Commission appointed Mr. Thiam as Special Rapporteur for the subject. The Commission proceeded with its work on the draft code from its thirty-fifth session, in 1983, to its forty-third session, in 1991, and at its forty-sixth and forty-seventh sessions, in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

In 1989, the General Assembly considered a new agenda item entitled “International criminal responsibility of individuals and entities engaged in illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs across national frontiers and other transnational criminal activities: establishment of an international criminal court with jurisdiction over such crimes”. In resolution 44/39 of 4 December 1989, the Assembly requested the Commission, when considering at its forty-second session the draft code of crimes against the peace and security of mankind, to address the question of establishing an international criminal court or other international criminal trial mechanism with jurisdiction over persons alleged to have committed crimes which may be covered under such a code, including persons engaged in illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs across national frontiers, and to devote particular attention to that question in its report on that session.

At its forty-second session, in 1990, the Commission had before it the eighth report of the Special Rapporteur on the draft code, part three of which dealt with the statute of an international criminal court. By its resolutions 45/41 of 28 November 1990 and 46/54 of 9 December 1991, the General Assembly invited the Commission, within the framework of the draft code, to consider further and analyse the issues raised in the report concerning the question of an international criminal jurisdiction. From 1991 to 1993, the Special Rapporteur for the draft code submitted three reports which addressed issues relating to the question of an international criminal jurisdiction. The General Assembly, in resolution 48/31 of 9 December 1993, inter alia, requested the Commission to continue its work as a matter of priority on the question with a view to elaborating a draft statute, if possible at its forty-sixth session, in 1994, taking into account the views expressed during the debate in the Sixth Committee as well as any written comments received from States.

In 1994, the Commission adopted the draft statute for an international criminal court, together with its commentaries, prepared by a special Working Group, and recommended to the General Assembly that it convene an international conference of plenipotentiaries to study the draft statute and to conclude a convention on the establishment of an international criminal court.  

The General Assembly, in resolution 49/53 of 9 December 1994, decided to establish an ad hoc committee open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies to review the major substantive and administrative issues arising out of the draft statute prepared by the Commission and, in the light of that review, to consider arrangements for the convening of an international conference of plenipotentiaries. It also decided that the Ad Hoc Committee should submit its report to the General Assembly at the beginning of its fiftieth session in 1995. The Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court met from 3 to 13 April and from 14 to 25 August 1995, during which time the Committee reviewed the issues arising out of the draft statute prepared by the Commission and considered arrangements for the convening of an international conference. The General Assembly, in resolution 50/46 of 11 December 1995, decided to establish a Preparatory Committee to discuss further the major substantive and administrative issues arising out of the draft statute prepared by the Commission and, taking into account the different views expressed during the meetings, to draft texts with a view to preparing a widely acceptable consolidated text of a convention for an international criminal court as a next step towards consideration by a conference of plenipotentiaries.

The Preparatory Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court met from 25 March to 12 April and from 12 to 30 August 1996, during which time the Committee discussed further the issues arising out of the draft statute and began preparing a widely acceptable consolidated text of a convention for an international criminal court. The General Assembly, in resolution 51/207 of 17 December 1996, decided to hold a diplomatic conference of plenipotentiaries in 1998 with a view to finalizing and adopting a convention on the establishment of an international criminal court. The Assembly also decided that the Preparatory Committee would meet in 1997 and 1998 in order to complete the drafting of the text for submission to the Conference. The Preparatory Committee met from 11 to 21 February, from 4 to 15 August and from 1 to 12 December 1997, during which time the Committee continued to prepare a widely acceptable consolidated text of a convention for an international criminal court.

The General Assembly, in resolution 52/160 of 15 December 1997, decided to hold the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, open to all States Members of the United Nations or members of specialized agencies or of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998. The Preparatory Committee met from 16 March to 3 April 1998, during which time the Committee completed the preparation of the draft Statute of an International Criminal Court, which was transmitted to the Conference. 

The Conference met in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998. It was attended by 160 States as well as by the observers of the Palestine Liberation Organization, sixteen intergovernmental organizations and other entities, five specialized agencies and related organizations, and nine United Nations programmes and bodies. Furthermore, representatives of 135 non-governmental organizations participated in the work of the Conference in accordance with General Assembly resolution 52/160 of 15 December 1997.

The Conference had before it the draft statute which was assigned to the Committee of the Whole for its consideration. The Conference entrusted the Drafting Committee, without reopening substantive discussion on any matter, with coordinating and refining the drafting of all texts referred to it without altering their substance, formulating drafts and giving advice on drafting as requested by the Conference or by the Committee of the Whole and reporting to the Conference or to the Committee of the Whole as appropriate.

On 17 July 1998, the Conference adopted the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (status), which was opened for signature on 17 July 1998 until 17 October 1998 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy and, subsequently, until 31 December 2000, at United Nations Headquarters in New York. It remains open for accession by all States. On 11 March 2003, an inaugural public session of the International Criminal Court was held at the Hall of Knights in The Hague, Netherlands.

The International Criminal Court was established to bring to trial the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, i.e. the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression (once a provision is adopted defining the latter crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime). The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. By establishing the International Criminal Court the States party to the Statute aimed to put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes, and to secure the peace, security and well-being of the world, in conformity with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular the principle that all States shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.


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