Background Briefing

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In many conflicts around the world, armies or rebel groups attack ordinary people and commit terrible human rights abuses against them. Often, these crimes are not punished by the national courts. But since July 2002, we have an international court for such crimes. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent international tribunal created for the prosecution of crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes. The International Criminal Court is currently in the process of preparing its first cases and is based in The Hague.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will become the first place where grave crimes are prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. 

On June 23, 2004, the Court’s Prosecutor, Louis Moreno Ocampo, announced that he was opening his first investigations in the DRC, for crimes committed since July 2002. This announcement was an answer to a formal referral of the situation in the country to the ICC by the DRC government in March 2004.  The Office of the Prosecutor had been conducting a “preliminary analysis” of the situation in DRC, initially focusing on the situation in Ituri, Oriental Province, as “the most urgent situation to be followed.”

In Uganda, the government has referred the situation regarding the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to the International Criminal Court. In a press conference, the Prosecutor of the Court has explained that the LRA has indeed committed grave crimes against civilians and that the Court will take this matter seriously.

Congolese and Ugandan nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can play a vital role by cooperating with the International Criminal Court. This guide answers some of the frequently asked questions about the Court. In particular it explains how NGOs can contribute to the Court’s work of prosecuting war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide at the international level. It does so by answering frequently asked questions about the International Criminal Court and the way NGOs can contribute to its efforts. However this guide does not provide a legal commentary or detailed explanation of the ICC crimes, nor does it tell the history of the International Criminal Court.

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