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ICC has no jurisdiction to prosecute Isis

18th Apr 2015

The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) prosecutor has stated that the ICC does not have the jurisdiction to open an enquiry into Isis as neither Syria or Iraq are member states, despite Isis’ “crimes of unspeakable cruelty” in the two countries.

In a statement made on the 8th of April, Fatou Bensouda, the prosecutor of the ICC, said that the court was unable to prosecute as the judicial basis for creating a preliminary examination into the situation was “too narrow at this stage”, and the United Nations security council has not asked for an investigation. The statement followed numerous questions into whether or not it would be possible to prosecute Isis for the atrocities the group committed.

The ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome statute, is open to participation by states, and so the prosecutor can only investigate and prosecute crimes committed by states which have joined the ICC statute or which have otherwise accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC, or crimes committed on the territory of member states.

Bensouda stated that although she was in possession of information which stated that several thousand people, included citizens of member states of the ICC, had joined Isis, the group seemed to be led by Syrians and Iranians, and so the ability to prosecute those involved in “crimes against humanity and war crimes” was limited.

Crimes committed by Isis include mass executions, sexual slavery, rape and other forms of sexual and gender-based violence, torture, mutilation, enlistment and forced recruitment of children and the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, and the wanton destruction of cultural property, according to the statement. Bensouda added that the “commission of the crime of genocide” had also been alleged.

The prosecutor stated that although nations which are not members of the ICC have the ability to grant the ICC or the security council jurisdiction, she is unable to influence that decision, and so the ability to prosecute Isis remains limited.