Temporal Jurisdiction (ratione temporis)
Temporal jurisdiction determines the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction with respect to time. As such, “the Court is a prospective institution in that it cannot exercise jurisdiction over crimes committed prior to the entry into force of the Statute. In this respect, it differs from all of its predecessors. Previous international criminal tribunals were established primarily to deal with atrocities committed prior to their creation”.
Article 11(1) of the Statute states: “The Court has jurisdiction only with respect to crimes committed after the entry into force of this Statute”. The Statute came into force on July 1st, 2002. Therefore, the ICC can exercise jurisdiction only over those crimes committed after the above-mentioned date.
The aforementioned Article should be read with another one. Article 24 of the Statute deals with the non-retroactivity of the ICC’s jurisdiction over persons (Non-retroactivity ratione personae), where it states in paragraph 1: “No person shall be criminally responsible under this Statute for conduct prior to the entry into force of the Statute”.
One may ask: what if a conduct (crime) commenced before the entry into force of the Statute and continued after its entry into force? For example, the case of “enforced disappearance” which is a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Statute. Someone might have disappeared prior to the entry into force of the Statute but the crime would continue thereafter, to the extent that the disappearance continued. Likewise, the cases of transfers and deportations.
The question of “continuous crimes” was dropped from the Rome Statute due to lack of agreement among the negotiators. Nonetheless, it is for the Court to decide how it will handle this issue.