, THE HAGUE, Nov 21 – The International Criminal Court, where Democratic Republic of Congo ex-vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba goes on trial on Monday, is the world\’s only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The ICC was created through the adoption of its founding Rome Statute at a diplomatic conference in Italy in July 1998, and started operating in The Hague in 2002 after the 60th country ratification required to launch it.
To date, 114 countries have signed up, 31 of them from Africa — the biggest group.
The court\’s president is the South Korean Sang-Hyun Song and its chief prosecutor the Argentinian Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
The ICC\’s jurisdiction is complementary to that of national courts, and it can only act when a member state is unwilling or unable to do so.
A state party may refer crimes within the court\’s jurisdiction to the prosecutor for investigation, as in the Bemba case, which was referred by the Central African Republic in December 2004.
Cases may also be referred by the United Nations Security Council, and the prosecutor can initiate his own investigations with permission from the judges.
The prosecutor has launched investigations into wars in four countries, all African: the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda, as well as the violence that killed about 1,500 people in Kenya after disputed 2007 elections.
The court has made public warrants against 13 individuals, of whom one has since died. They include Sudan\’s President Omar al-Bashir. Seven indictees are on the run. Four are in the ICC\’s custody in The Hague, all Congolese, of whom three are before the court in two separate trials.
The ICC employs almost 700 people from around 90 countries and has a budget of 104 million euros (142 million dollars) for 2010.