[JURIST] Chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Fatou Bensouda said Wednesday that although the Islamic State (IS) [JURIST backgrounder] has been accused of widespread atrocities throughout Iraq and Syria, her office lacks jurisdiction [statement] to open a formal investigation into the group. Despite allegations of “crimes of unspeakable cruelty,” Bensouda said, “Syria and Iraq are not Parties to the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the [ICC]. Therefore, the Court has no territorial jurisdiction over crimes committed on their soil.” Bensouda did note that the ICC has the power to exercise personal jurisdiction over individuals who are nationals of a state party but concluded that, “at this stage, the prospects of my Office investigating and prosecuting those most responsible, within the leadership of [IS], appear limited.”
IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has caused increasing international alarm over its human rights abuses [JURIST report] since its insurgence into Syria and Iraq in 2013. Last month the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] reported that the actions of IS in Iraq may amount to genocide [JURIST report], crimes against humanity and war crimes. Also in March the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the OHCHR jointly released a report [JURIST report] detailing violations against Iraqi civilians under the spread of IS. Bensouda stated in November that the ICC was contemplating bringing war crimes charges against IS jihadist fighters.