Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 391-413

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Prosecuting international crimes at the International Criminal Court: is there a coherent and comprehensive prosecution strategy?

  • Kai AmbosAffiliated withComparative Law and International Criminal Law, Georg-August Universität GöttingenDistrict Court (Landgericht) Göttingen Email author 
  • , Ignaz StegmillerAffiliated withGerman Agency for International Cooperation GIZ


The authors analyze the so far published selection and strategy papers of the Office of the Prosecutor (“OTP”) of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) with a view to their consistency, coherence and comprehensiveness. Given the high number of communications and referrals to the ICC a focused strategy setting out the criteria for situation and case selection and prioritization should be one of the priorities of the Prosecutor. Thus far the Office has developed a strategic framework guided by four fundamental principles: focused investigations, positive complementarity, the interests of the victims and the impact of the OTP’s work. These four principles are critically evaluated by the authors in light of the ICC Statute and existing case law. In particular the positive complementarity approach, focusing on the cooperation with national jurisdictions and enhancing their own capacity to prosecute, is to be welcomed and reflects a realistic prosecutorial policy approach. The cooperation between the OTP and Germany in the prosecution of the leadership of the FDLR is a good case in point. Only such a close interaction with national jurisdictions enables the ICC to contribute to the further closing of the impunity gap. Yet, the OTP must still more precisely define its position with regard to the criteria used for the selection of situations and cases. Thus, a priority for the new Prosecutor should be the drafting of a more precise and comprehensive strategy, integrating the already existing policy and strategy papers as well as drawing on lessons learned.