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date: 17 April 2024

Africa and the International Criminal Courtlocked

Africa and the International Criminal Courtlocked

  • Westen K. ShilahoWesten K. ShilahoUniversity of Johannesburg

Summary

A diplomatic row between Africa, specifically the African Union (AU), and the International Criminal Court (ICC), regarding accountability for mass atrocities exists. Critics accuse the ICC of bias on account of its African caseload, while the ICC counters that it has a mandate to afford justice to victims of heinous crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, war of aggression, and genocide—whenever domestic courts cannot do so. This article problematizes the relationship between the AU and the ICC, which was initially cordial until the indictment of former Sudanese autocrat, Omar Al-Bashir. The indictment of six Kenyan suspects, the “Ocampo Six,” among them, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who subsequently ascended to power, worsened the Africa–ICC relationship. The article contends that, although flawed, the ICC is significant in addressing impunity. However, the ICC stands accused of favoritism, imperialism, erosion of the sovereignty of already weak African states, and escalation of conflicts. Historically, international criminal justice is steeped in controversy. Africa has suffered humiliation by the West, which evokes suspicion toward the ICC, perceived to be a stooge of Western powers. The ICC as a court of last resort, ought to afford justice to victims of mass atrocities whenever national judiciaries fail them. Crucially, however, domestic courts in Africa need capacity and political will to hold to account masterminds and perpetrators of mass atrocities. Thus, the choice between justice and peace or retributive and restorative justice preponderant among ICC critics in Africa is false. There cannot be peace and reconciliation in Africa without justice. Truth telling and retribution are complementary processes in combating impunity and realizing justice, stability, and prosperity.

Subjects

  • Conflict Studies
  • Human Rights
  • International Law

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