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Article 12(2)(a) Rome Statute: The Missing Piece of the Jurisdictional Puzzle

Published on August 7, 2014        Author: 

2014.08.05.Jean Baptiste photoJean-Baptiste Maillart is a PhD Candidate at the University of Geneva and a Teaching Assistant at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights.

Article 12(2)(a) of the Rome Statute provides that the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction over a crime if the “State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred” is a party to the Statute or has accepted the Court’s jurisdiction by a declaration. It has become commonplace to paraphrase that provision as stating that the Court may exercise its territorial jurisdiction over a crime that has been committed within the territory of a State Party. For instance, the late Judge Hans-Peter Kaul wrote [p. 607] “if a core crime is committed by an individual in the territory of a State Party to the Statute, the ICC will have jurisdiction” (see also the commentaries of Schabas [p. 285], Bourgon [p. 564] and Haupais [p. 582]). The Court itself uses the exact same wording: “[…] under article 12(2) of the Statute one of the two alternative criteria must be met: (a) the relevant crime was committed in the territory of a State Party or […] (b) the relevant crime was committed by a national of a State Party […]” (ICC-01/04-01/07-262 [§. 14]); see also for instance ICC-02/11-14 [§. 187] or ICC-01/09-19-Corr [§. 175]).

However, a careful and literal reading of Article 12(2)(a) leads to a different conclusion. The Court has jurisdiction over a crime when “the conduct”of this crime occurred on the territory of a State party, not when the crime was committed there. Some scholars addressing Article 12 (e.g., Wagner [p. 485] and Vagias [p. 53]) have pointed out the exact terminology used, but none have considered whether it could have any practical effect. This post considers, on the basis of the traditional interpretation of the term “conduct”, a possible challenge to the ICC’s jurisdiction over certain cross-border crimes where, if Article 12(2)(a) said “commission”, it would undoubtedly have jurisdiction. In other words, it could be argued that it is incorrect to read “conduct occur[ing]” on certain territory as equivalent to “commission of a crime” on that territory.  The post also proposes a counter-argument in favor of jurisdiction. Read the rest of this entry…