The chief justice of the International Criminal Court said Wednesday in Tokyo that Japan’s expected participation in the international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, will benefit both Japan and the international community.

Set up in July 2002, the ICC is an independent, permanent criminal court that hears cases dealing with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by individuals.

“It is clear that once Japan is within the system, it will lead other states in Asia to participate in the system,” Justice Philippe Kirsch said at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo. “Also, Japan, within the system, will be in a much better position to influence the shaping and the future of the court.”

The court handles cases where the accused is a national of a member state, where the crime was committed in a member state, or other cases referred to it by the U.N. Security Council.

The ICC acts only when the courts of member states are unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute crimes.

At present, the ICC has 104 members, mostly from Europe and Africa. Many Asian countries have yet to join.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in October that Japan aims to sign on to the ICC next year.

The court is now investigating four cases: in Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic and Sudan.

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