The Great Importance of the ICC


John Scales Avery, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Establishment of the International Criminal Court 

1 Apr 2023 – In 1998, in Rome, representatives of 120 countries signed a statute establishing an International Criminal Court (ICC), with jurisdiction over the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

Four years were to pass before the necessary ratifications were gathered, but by Thursday, April 11, 2002, 66 nations had ratified the Rome agreement, 6 more than the 60 needed to make the court permanent. It would be impossible to overstate the importance of the ICC. At last, international law acting on individuals has become a reality! The only effective and just way that international laws can act is to make individuals responsible and punishable, since (in the words of Alexander Hamilton) “To coerce states is one of the maddest projects that was ever devised.”

At present, the ICC functions very imperfectly because of the bitter opposition of several powerful countries; notably, the United States. U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the American Service members Protection Act of 2002, which is intended to intimidate countries that ratify the treaty for the ICC. The new law authorizes the use of military force to liberate any American or citizen of a U.S.-allied country being held by the court, which is located in The Hague. This provision, dubbed the “Hague invasion clause,” has caused a strong reaction from U.S. allies around the world, particularly in the Netherlands.

The ICC and UN Charter Reform

The Second World War was even more disastrous than the First. Estimates of the total number of people who died as a result of the war range between 50 million and 80 million. With the unspeakable suffering caused by the war fresh in their minds, representatives of the victorious allied countries assembled in San Francisco to draft the charter of a global organization which they hoped would end the institution of war once and for all.

The Preamble to the United Nations Charter starts with the words: “We , the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind; and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security; and to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest; and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples, have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”

Article 2 of the UN Charter requires that “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” This requirement is somewhat qualified by Article 51, which says that “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

Thus, in general, war is illegal under the UN Charter. Self-defense against an armed attack is permitted, but only for a limited time, until the Security Council has had time to act. The United Nations Charter does not permit the threat or use of force in preemptive wars, or to produce regime changes, or for so-called “democratization”, or for the domination of regions that are rich in oil.

Clearly, the United Nations Charter aims at abolishing the institution of war once and for all; but the present Charter has proved to be much too weak to accomplish this purpose, since it is a confederation of the member states rather than a federation. This does not mean that our present United Nations is a failure. Far from it! The UN has achieved  almost universal membership, which the League of Nations failed to do. The Preamble to the Charter speaks of  “the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples’”, and UN agencies, such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization and UNESCO, have worked very effectively to improve the lives of people throughout the world. Furthermore, the UN has served as a meeting place for diplomats from all countries, and many potentially serious conflicts have been resolved by informal conversations behind the scenes at the UN. Finally, although often unenforceable, resolutions of the UN General Assembly and declarations by the Secretary General have great normative value.

A World Federation

Here is a link to my book advocating strengthening the United Nations by converting it into a World Federation:

At present, the United Nations is too weak to prevent wars because it tries to coerce states by means of sanctions. This is not only ineffective, but also unjust, because the burdens of the sanctions fall on the poor people of a country, rather than on its guilty leaders. By contrast, a federation can make laws that act on individuals.

The Illegal and Immoral Invasion of Iraq

It has been almost exactly 20 years since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. All over the world, millions of people protested against this brutal act, but to no avail. Today, as a result of the war, Iraq is in ruins, as is the entire Middle East. Nevertheless, the ICC has not indicted Bush and other leaders who started the war. This shows that the International Criminal Court operates very imperfectly today. Nevertheless, the ICC is there, it is established, and we must all work wholeheartedly for its improvement because of its enormous importance.

Many freely downloadable books, for example, books dealing with serious global problems, can be found at the following web addresses:


John Scales Avery, Ph.D., who was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organizing the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network and Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy and received his training in theoretical physics and theoretical chemistry at M.I.T., the University of Chicago and the University of London. He is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent books are Information Theory and Evolution and Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century (pdf). Website:

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Apr 2023.

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One Response to “The Great Importance of the ICC”

  1. Roger Kotila says:

    John Avery is on the right track calling for world federal government. The World Constitution & Parliament Association is already on it, with its EARTH CONSTITUTION (ask Constitution for the Federation of Earth) waiting in the wings, ready to replace the obsolete and fatally flawed UN Charter.

    WCPA along with Democratic World Federalists (DWF) and the Center for UN Constitutional Research (CUNCR) is reaching out to the UN General Assembly to launch UN Charter Review. There are 188 countries without meaningful voting rights in the UN. They can open the door for the Earth Constitution. Peace, human rights, and environmental activists can help by getting your nation to join these 3 think tanks to activate what we are calling THE SAN FRANCISCO PROMISE.