• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland

  • 22 March 2018

    International Courts


    International Criminal Court

    Historical background

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) is based in The Hague in the Netherlands. It operates under the Rome Statute of 17 July 1998, which entered into force on the 1st of July 2002.

    The ICC is a permanent institution, which has the power to exercise its jurisdiction (investigate and prosecute) over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern. The Court has jurisdiction with respect to the following crimes: 

    • The crime of genocide;
    • Crime against humanity;
    • War crimes;
    • The crime of aggression.

    The Court has jurisdiction over a case if a State which has jurisdiction over it is unwilling or unable genuinely to carry out the investigation or prosecution and only when the case is of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court. In addition, the Court has jurisdiction only with respect to crimes committed after the entry into force of the Rome Statute, i.e. after 1st July 2002.   

    Currently there are 124 Member States of the Rome Statute, including Poland as of 1st July 2002. All European Union states have acceded to the Rome Statute. Regrettably, key countries such as the United States, the Russian Federation, China and India have not acceded to the Rome Statute.  

    The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC is currently investigating situations in the following countries: Mali, Georgia, Kenia, Libya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Sudan (Darfur), Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire.

    In order to decide whether there is enough information on crimes of sufficient gravity providing reasonable basis to open an investigation the OTP is conducting preliminary investigations in the following States: Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Gabon, Guinea, Nigeria, Palestine and Ukraine.  


    Judges of the International Criminal Court

    The Court is composed of 18 judges elected by the Assembly of States Parties of the ICC for a term of nine years. Judges are not be eligible for re-election. Every three years one third of all judges (six judges) are elected. In December 2014 a Polish judge, professor Piotr Hofmański was elected a judge of the ICC for a term from 2015 to 2024.   

    On the 11th of March 2015 judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi from Argentina was elected President of the ICC. Judge Joyce Aluoch from Kenya is First Vice-President and Kuniko Ozaki from Japan is Second Vice-President of the Court.


    Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court

    The current Prosecutor of the ICC is Ms. Fatou Bensouda from The Gambia. She took office in June 2012. Mr. James Stewart from Canada is the Deputy Prosecutor of the Court.


    Registry of the International Criminal Court 

    The Registry is a neutral organ of the ICC that provides services to all other organs so that the Court can function and conduct fair and effective public proceedings. The three main categories of services of the Registry are: judicial support, external affairs and management.

    Currently Mr. Herman von Hebel from the Netherlands is the Registrar of the ICC.    

    Poland in the International Criminal Court

    Poland provides political support to the activities of the Court. Poland has adopted appropriate implementing provisions on cooperation with the ICC in the Code of Criminal Procedure, as well as a specific provision in the Polish Constitution concerning the surrender of Polish citizens. In February 2009 Poland ratified the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities of the ICC. This Agreement has been ratified by 75 states.  

    Poland fully complies with its financial obligations towards the Court. It actively participates in the Hague and New York working groups of the Bureau of the Assembly of States Parties. Poland makes regular voluntary contributions to the ICC Trust fund for Victims.


    More about the ICC at:


    International Court of Justice

    Historical background


    The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principle judicial organ of the United Nations (UN) and is considered to be the highest judicial institution in the world. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946. Its seat is at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Like the General Assembly or the Security Council the ICJ is one of the six principle organs of the United Nations and the only one not located in New York. The official languages of the Court are French and English. The Statute, i.e. the founding document of the International Court of Justice, constitutes an integral part of the Charter of the United Nations. All member of the UN recognize the ICJ and may submit legal disputes to it. The ICJ replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice  (PCIJ), which was established in 1922 by the League of Nations.  Between the years 1922 and 1940 the PCIJ delivered sixty decisions. After the end of World War II it was dissolved. On 18 April 1946 the PCIJ was replaced by the ICJ. The ICJ functions in accordance with its Statute, which is based on the Statute of the PCIJ. It also uses the jurisprudence and the traditions of its predecessor. Like to PCIJ the International Court of Justice has two functions. The first is to settle legal disputes submitted to it by States. The second is to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.

    The International Court of Justice is not a criminal court and does not deal with individual complaints. Only legal disputes between States may be submitted for consideration by the Court.


    Judges of the International Court of Justice


    The ICJ is composed of 15 judges who are elected by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council for a term of office of nine years. Every three years a five new judges are elected.  Judges may be reelected for another term. Each member of the ICJ must come from another country. Judges are independent and do not represent their State of origin. The composition of the ICJ reflects equitable geographical representation.

    The President and the Vice-President are elected by the Members of the Court every three years by a secret ballot. The President presides at all meetings of the Court, directs its work and supervises its administration. Judge Ronny Abraham from France is the President  of ICJ as of 6 February 2015. Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf from Somalia is the Vice-President of the Court.


    The Registry of the International Court of Justice


    The Registry is a permanent administrative organ of the Court. It helps in the administration of justice and performs administrative, judicial and diplomatic activities of the Court. The Registry consists of three Departments: Legal Matters, Linguistic Matters and Information. It currently comprises some 100 officials from around the world. The Registry is headed by a Registrar elected by the Court for a term of seven years. On the 3rd of February 2014 Mr. Philippe Couvreur from Belgium was elected for the third term the Registrar of the ICJ.   



    Poland at the International Court of Justice


    Two exceptional Polish judges were elected to the ICJ. Professor Bohdan Winiarski was a judge from 1946 to 1967 and professor Manfred Lachs was a judge from 1967 to 1993. Judge Bohdan Winiarski was the President of the ICJ from 1961 to 1964 and judge Manfred Lachs was the President of the ICJ from 1973 to 1976.

    In 1990 Poland recognized as compulsory the jurisdiction of the ICJ in legal disputes (optional clause). It was  subsequently substituted by the existing declaration of 25 March 1996.


    More about the ICJ at:



    International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)


    The ICTY has a seat in The Hague. It was established by the United Nations Security Council resolution 808 of 22 February 1993 in order to bring to justice individuals responsible for major violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia since 1991. ICTY was the first international criminal tribunal established by the United Nations and the first international tribunal established to try individuals responsible for war crimes since the establishment of the war crimes tribunals in Tokyo and Nuremberg.

    The Tribunal has indicted 161 individuals. Those indicted by the Court include high and mid-level political, military and police leaders. 154 of the proceedings have already been completed. 83 individuals have been sentenced, 19 acquitted, 13 have had their cases transferred to local courts, 2 accused are to be re-tried before the MICT. 37 cases have been terminated because either the accused died or the indictments were withdrawn.


    ICTY completed its mission on the 31st of December 2017.   


    Poland at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia


    Poland actively cooperates with the ICTY. Poland’s involvement is focused primarily on receiving individuals convicted by the ICTY to serve the remainder of their sentence in Poland. Currently Radislav Krstić responsible for the war crimes in Srebrenica and Sreten Lukić responsible for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo are serving their sentences in Poland. Two other individuals are awaiting transfer to Poland.


    More about the ICTY at:


    Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

    The Mechanism was established by the United Nations Security Council resolution 1966 of 22nd December 2010 and has assumed the responsibility for a number of functions and responsibilities of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda following the expiration of their mandates.


    The Mechanism is composed of two branches. The branch in Arusha (United Republic of Tanzania) began its activities on the 1st of July 2012 and took over activities from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The branch in The Hague took over the activities of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on 1st July 2013. Both branches of the Mechanism have a single set of Principles: a President, a Prosecutor and a Registrar as well as a common roster of 25 judges. Judge Theodor Meron from the USA is the President of the Mechanism. He was appointed by the Secretary General on 1st March 2012. Serge Brammertz from Belgium has been appointed Prosecutor of the Mechanism by the United Nations Security Council on 29th February 2016. Olufemi Elias from Nigeria has been appointed by the United Nations Secretary General for the post of Registrar on 1st  July 2017.

    The Mechanism is responsible for conducting appeals proceedings for which the notice of appeal was filed after the start of the relevant branch of the Mechanism. It may review judgments  pronounced by the ICTY, ICTR or Mechanism and may also conduct retrials of ICTY, ICTR and Mechanism cases.  The Mechanism is also responsible for protecting victims and witnesses of crimes, supervision of enforcement of sentences, monitoring of cases referred by the ICTY and ICTR to national courts and assisting national authorities at their request. The Mechanism is responsible for the preservation, including the management and access, of ICTR, the ICTY and the Mechanism archives.  

    Judges of the Mechanism International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

    The Mechanism has a roster of 25 independent judges who are elected by the United Nations General Assembly for a term of four years and are eligible for reappointment by the United Nations Secretary General after consultations with the Presidents of the Security Council and of the General Assembly. The first 25 judges were elected by the UN GA on 20th December 2011. The UN Secretary General reappointed them for a two-year term of office commencing on 1st July 2016. 


    More about MICT at:


    Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)


    PCA is the first permanent intergovernmental organization dedicated to dispute resolution between states. It was established under the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague in 1899 during the First Hague Peace Conference (revised under The Hague Convention of 1907). Poland is a party to the Hague Convention of 1907 as of 22nd May 1922. The seat of the PCA is the Peace Palace in The Hague. The Court was the first global mechanism for the peaceful resolution of international disputes. The PCA deals primarily with the resolution of economic disputes between states, states entities, international organizations and private parties. The Court has no permanent composition. In case of a dispute states chose four persons from the list of arbitrators. It is also possible to appoint arbitrators from outside the list. Each member state is entitled to nominate up to four persons as members of the Court for a term of six years. Members of the Court from each member state form a national group. At present the Polish national group at the PCA consists of professor Jerzy Makarczyk, professor Janusz Symonides and professor Kazimierz Lankosz.  


    More about the PCA at:


    Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH)


    HCCH is an intergovernmental organization with the Permanent Bureau having its seat at The Hague. The organizations goal is the progressive unification of rules of the private international law. This objective is realized through the elaboration of multilateral conventions and agreements in areas of private international law such as judicial cooperation, compensation, child protection, family agreements involving children, inheritance and recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in civil and commercial matters. Poland is a member of the organization since 29th May 1984. The activities of HCCH are of crucial importance for the Polish judiciary in civil, family and commercial matters.  


    More about the HCCH at:


    Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)


    On 14th February 2005 the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 other persons were killed in a bomb attack in Beirut. This assassination was condemned by the international community. The Government of Lebanon requested the United Nations on 13 December 2005 to create a tribunal of an “international character” in order to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of this heinous terrorist act. In response on 30th May 2007 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1757 establishing a Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The Tribunal began its work on 1st March 2009 in Leidschendam, near The Hague. It is an independent international tribunal, not a UN Court.  

    On 16th January 2014 a trial in absentia of five persons started before the Tribunal.  


    More about the STL at:


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