The establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 1 July 2002 was a landmark development in the quest for universal justice. Now, for the first time, there is a permanent international body that can take jurisdiction over the prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when States are unwilling or unable to do so.
Commonwealth Heads of Government were early supporters of the ICC. At their meeting in Edinburgh in 1997, they "expressed their belief that an International Criminal Court would be an important development in the international promotion of the rule of law". After the adoption of the Rome Statute of the ICC, at their meeting in Coolum, Australia in 2002, Heads of Government" encouraged member countries to accede" to it. It is only fitting, therefore, that this Commonwealth Guide has been developed in support of effective domestic prosecution of international crimes and full implementation of the Rome Statute.
While the ICC brings an important new component to international criminal and humanitarian law, it does not represent a means by which States can abdicate responsibility for bringing to justice the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. Quite the contrary is true. The Preamble to the Rome Statute recalls that:
"it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes."
In fact, a case is only admissible before the ICC if the...