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From its inception, the world's first permanent International Criminal Court ("ICC" or "Court") was envisioned as a body that would preside over only those cases of most serious concern to the international community as a whole. Thus, the Court's subject matter jurisdiction is limited to the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression. Moreover, Article 17(1)(d) of the Rome Statute provides that the Court shall determine that a case is inadmissible where the case is not of sufficient gravity to justify further action by the Court. This so-called "gravity threshold" has played a critical role in guiding the Prosecutor's selection of both situations and cases. In addition, the first Pre-Trial Chamber to consider the question has affirmed that Article 17(1)(d) imposes a requirement that must be met above and beyond the jurisdictional mandates of the Rome Statute. Yet, because "gravity" is not defined in the Statute, the appropriate scope of the term remains a matter of substantial debate. The aim of this article is therefore to review the underlying purpose of the gravity threshold as understood by the drafters of the Rome Statute, analyze the application of gravity considerations in practice during the initial years of the Court's operations, and offer recommendations aimed at clarifying both the objectives of the threshold and the factors relevant to its satisfaction.



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