This article shows that in the 20 years following the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court its nature has surfed on three waves. Building upon the Court’s case law on the principle of legality and the immunity of state officials from non-party states, it shows that the Statute was initially conceived to be of universal nature, transcending the interests of all states. However, following a series of pushbacks, the Court revised this case law to rightly acknowledge that its Statute is first of all a multilateral treaty regulating the conduct committed in the territory and by nationals of its states parties. Yet, this second wave maintained the potential for the Statute to be universally applicable when the Court’s jurisdiction is based on ad hoc declarations of acceptance or Security Council referrals. However, the journey to amend the Statute to define the crime of aggression and new war crimes might have made the prospects for universal application dependent upon universal ratification. This article argues that this third wave certainly evinces a novel shift towards state consent, but that direct and indirect forms of consent can still premise the Court’s jurisdiction over situations concerning states which have not ratified the Statute or its amendments.
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