International Criminal Court and the Question of Sovereignty

Lt Cdr Atul Bharadwaj was a Research Fellow at IDSA. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Pune, he was commissioned in the executive branch of the Indian Navy in 1987. He has served on board various ships and establishments. He has published articles on defence matters and is presently working on ‘Globalisation and National Security’.
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  • January 2003

    Appalled by the increasing brutality and emboldened by the collapse of ideological barriers, international law now intends to cross the rubicon and reach out for criminals hiding behind the veil of sovereignty. It aims to sensitize the world against gross human rights violations through the threat of legal action. The rapid entry of the Rome Statute on July 1, 2002 heralds a new era in international politics. It opens new avenues for the international community to monitor human rights violations within states and bring the delinquent individuals to trial.

    One of the main reasons for the court to come into existence after the end of the Cold War is that many crimes committed against humanity have been ignored by states either due to 'military necessity' or under the national sovereignty and territorial integrity clause. The ICC does involve a certain sacrifice of sovereignty because it envisages asserting itself when a state refuses or fails to use its national criminal justice apparatus to deal with the perpetrator of crimes against humanity.

    This paper argues that the ICC challenges the exclusivity of sovereign states. ICC imposes certain restrictions and limits on state authority and competes with the state in the exercise of authority.

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