On this day July 1, 2002

The Rome Statute entered into force, establishing the International Criminal Court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

The statute is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002.

As of June 2009, 108 states are party to the statute. Chile will become the 109th state party on 1 September 2009, and a further 39 states have signed but not ratified the treaty. Among other things, the statute establishes the court’s functions, jurisdiction and structure.

On 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining. The seven countries that voted against the treaty were Iraq, Israel, Libya, the People’s Republic of China, Qatar, the United States, and Yemen.

In 2002, two of these states, the United States and Israel, “unsigned” the Rome Statute, indicating that they no longer intend to become states parties and, as such, they have no legal obligations arising from their signature of the statute.

The position of the United States was set by the former Bush Administration, who made clear its intention to never join the International Criminal Court, which was established in 2002 as a permanent criminal court to investigate and prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

The U.S. position will likely be revisited by President Barack Obama, as well as by the Congress. When asked whether the United States should join the International Criminal Court, President Obama (then a Senator), stated:

Yes[.] The United States should cooperate with ICC investigations in a way that reflects American sovereignty and promotes our national security interests.

In addition, other candidates in the 2008 presidential election also had expressed their interest in joining, or at least cooperating, to a larger extent, with the ICC.

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