Increasing Case Traffic: Expanding the International Criminal Court’s Focus on Human Trafficking Cases

Human trafficking falls within the jurisdictional competence of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) as one of the article 7 crimes against humanity, whether committed in an atmosphere of conflict or in times of relative peace. Despite the ICC’s jurisdiction, as well as the globally pervasive nature of peacetime trafficking in particular, the ICC has not yet heard a human trafficking case.

Accountability at the international level, however, is crucial, and the ICC’s oversight has the potential to fill gaps in the current anti-trafficking regime. This note explores this potential, and then examines whether the text of the Rome Statute or prior jurisprudence from international criminal tribunals creates barriers to prosecuting peacetime trafficking cases. It reviews three archetypal trafficking cases that the ICC could hear ((1) state agents trafficking civilians themselves; (2) state agents facilitating the trafficking of civilians, but not engaging in the trafficking themselves; and (3) state agents acquiescing to trafficking, particularly through generationally-embedded forms of slavery), and demonstrates how each fit within the relevant requirements of the Rome Statute.