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Referendum on the Twenty-Third Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2001 (Acceptance of the Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court)

A referendum on a proposal to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court was held on 7 June 2001.

The Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court (1998) provides for the establishment of a permanent international criminal court under the United Nations system. The function of the International Criminal Court is to try, in certain defined circumstances, persons charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and aggression. It is a permanent court and not as the previous International Criminal Tribunals were, such as those dealing with the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, providing for a particular problem only. The new Court consists of 18 full-time judges and sits at the Hague in the Netherlands. To date (2001), approximately 140 countries have signed the Rome Statute (including Ireland) and 30 countries have ratified the Statute.

By passing the referendum, this State was in a position to ratify the Rome Statute. The effect of ratification of the Statute was that some element of sovereignty in criminal matters were transferred from the potential jurisdiction of the Irish courts to the International Criminal Court. On ratification, a person, for example, living in Ireland could be arrested here and, by proper legal procedure, brought before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes. Ratification of the Rome Statute by Ireland required an amendment of the Constitution because it would otherwise be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution with regard to sovereignty and also with regard to the trial of offences.

The Court came into force on 1 July 2002 when 60 countries had ratified the Statute.

The proposal was approved by the people.


You can read the Referendum Commission’s report online or download a PDF copy of the report.