P155 – Africa and International Justice: Contestation, Resistance or Support?
8 July, 14:00-15:30

Gibert Marie / Nottingham Trent University
Appiagyei-Atua Kwadwo / University of Lincoln and University of Ghana


Africa’s reactions to the rise of international justice have been mixed. They have included efforts to confront impunity by shifting the African Union’s position from non-interference to non-indifference in dealing with war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other international crimes. African states also played an instrumental role in the creation of the International Criminal Court, individually and collectively.  Some authors have, however, noted that this official eagerness might have partly concealed some leaders’ desire to instrumentalise international justice (Branch 2004, Clark 2013). In more recent years, African heads of state have expressed their weariness at the ICC’s focus on the continent and their opposition to the indictment of their peers. This outright contestation has more recently transformed into attempts at institutional resistance. The planned African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights is clearly meant as a competing African system that could provide immunity and impunity for leaders. Beyond the African political leadership, however, there is evidence of local non-governmental organizations’ support for international justice (Höhn 2010, Lynch 2012).

L’Afrique et la justice internationale : contestation, résistance ou adhésion ?
Les réactions africaines face à l’émergence du concept de justice internationale ont été mitigées. On a d’abord vu l’Union Africaine remplacer sa politique de non-ingérence par une politique de non-indifférence face aux crimes de guerre, crimes contre l’humanité, génocides et autres crimes internationaux. Les États africains ont également joué un rôle-clé, individuellement et collectivement, dans la création de la Cour pénale internationale. Des auteurs ont cependant noté que cet empressement initial avait peut-être servi à dissimuler la volonté de certains dirigeants d’instrumentaliser la justice internationale (Branch 2004, Clark 2013). Plus récemment, les chefs d’États africains ont exprimé leur frustration face à la focalisation de la CPI sur l’Afrique et leur opposition à l’inculpation de leurs pairs. Cette contestation s’est plus récemment transformée en résistance institutionnelle. Le projet de Cour africaine de justice, de droits de l’homme et des peuples est clairement censé faire de la concurrence à la CPI et offrir une garantie d’immunité aux dirigeants du continent. Mais au-delà des dirigeants africains, il y a également des signes d’adhésion, par des organisations non-gouvernementales locales, à l’idée de justice internationale (Höhn 2010, Lynch 2012).

Paper 1

Scalia Damien / Columbia Law School and Université catholique de Louvain

International Criminal Justice: experience and discourses of the tried people

L’action de la justice pénale internationale en Afrique oppose aujourd’hui les tenants d’une intervention légitime et nécessaire de la communauté internationale (qui a pour but notamment la lutte contre l’impunité et la prévention d’autres crimes) et les appels dénonçant un néo-colonialisme induit par l’utilisation d’un droit « occidental » et politisé. Or, personne ne prend en considération la parole des accusés. Elle permet pourtant, d’une part, d’analyser l’impact de cette justice internationale et, d’autre part, de la voir sous un jour nouveau. Notre recherche novatrice vise à pallier ce manque.
Cette contribution présentera les résultats de cette recherche empirique sur la perception de la justice pénale internationale par les personnes jugées par le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda. Les entretiens réalisés avec plus de 50 accusés (condamnés ou acquittés) mettent en exergue une justice vécue comme une domination (politique, idéologique) du Nord sur le Sud. Les participants y décrivent une justice injuste, politisée, hors du groupe et hors de la réalité : elle n’est, selon eux, pas légitime. Ces discours illustrent ainsi l’incertitude de l’impact judiciaire sur les auteurs de crimes de masses et les résistances qu’elle entraîne.

Paper 2

Magliveras Konstantinos / University of the Aegean

Substituting International Criminal Justice for an African Criminal Justice?

The AU has regarded transnational criminal justice, particularly the ICC and international law rules, e.g. the principle of universal jurisdiction, to be forms of Western domination akin to neo-colonialism. The AU’s behaviour is paradoxical: African states constitute the largest group of parties to the ICC, while such principles ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice, an important consideration given Africa’s ethos of impunity and weak institutional and normative frameworks. The paper explains these paradoxes by analyzing critically the AU actions to redress what it perceives as a Western attempt to discredit Africa. It focuses on AU’s calls that Member States not give effect to ICC arrest warrants, the creation of the AU Commission on International Law, and the efforts to amend the Rome Statute, persuade the UN Security Council to defer referring cases to the ICC and create the first ever permanent regional criminal justice organ by adding an International Criminal Law Section to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, the latter having no prospect to become operative in the foreseeable future. Despite the novelties (e.g. the AU being able to sentence nationals of Member States for criminal offences), the crucial question remains if these actions contribute in allowing the victims of humanitarian law violations to seek justice from perpetrators.

Paper 3

Wamai Njoki / University of Cambridge

“Peace is Justice”: Local Narratives on Peace and Justice in two Kenyan Counties

The two Kenyan cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) have reignited debates about the merits and demerits of ICC justice in Africa. While the debates have been useful in highlighting the tensions between the ICC and African elites, there has not been an equal focus on how justice is conceptualized from below from those ostensibly in need of justice after mass atrocities. The victims of the cases and residents of Nakuru and Uasin Gishu counties in Kenya attest to these differences in perception of justice between them and the ICC due to the various mediating narratives that inform their perspectives on peace and justice.
The paper will present empirical evidence that was part of a larger doctoral research carried out between August 2013- August 2014 on how local narratives about peace, justice and reconciliation are constructed from below by ordinary people in the two counties in Kenya where the ICC cases are based. The evidence indicates that most participants have contextualized the concept of justice to suit their politically volatile counties instead of the ascribed idea of justice from the Hague based on retributive justice. The paper seeks to highlight the limitations of viewing the concepts of peace and justice as a static and conflicting while emphasizing their fluidity in some African contexts.

Paper 4

Gout Philippe / Institut des Hautes Etudes Internationales (Université Paris 2 Panthéon-Assas) et CEDEJ (Khartoum)

The halt of ICC’s war crimes investigations in Darfur: the limits of prosecutor’s definition of the crime of genocide and the full-scale resistance to ICC’s investigations

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor announced last December the halt of war crimes investigations in Darfur given the lack of support from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). This decision is yet an attempt to pressure the UNSC and UNAMID to act.
This sensitive situation results from the structural defects of the ICC, which has no coercive means beyond inter-State cooperation. The presentation will stress the structural defects of the ICC led it’s former chief prosecutor – Luis Moreno-Ocampo – to misuse the qualification of the crime of genocide in Darfur so as to secure the arrest of Al-Bashir and other connected investigations. This move is also based on a biased ‘conflict-approach’ to minority definition in Darfur. This approach had dramatic effects on local populations as it excludes numerous ethnic groups from joining peace and justice initiatives and from being taken into account in ICC’s investigations.
The presentation will consequently suggest this particular move has unveiled the limits of the ICC’s jurisdiction and damaged its legitimacy. It will be shown that resistance and contestation to ICC’s investigations ensue both from other justice and peace-making initiatives in Sudan – the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission of the 2011 Doha Agreement, the Sudan Special Criminal Court for the Events in Darfur, and UNAMID itself – and from the poor will of African States and the African Union to cooperate with ICC.

Paper 5

Ebobrah Solomon / iCourts, University of Copenhagen

International criminal justice in Africa: Is the African Court an obstacle?

Writing in 2005/06, David M. Crane, former Prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone claimed that one of six ‘truisms’ that became manifest to him in the course of his duties was the need to ‘place the tribunal in the location where the international crime took place, at the scene of the crime’. After all, he argued, ‘a tribunal is for and about the victims, their families as well as their towns and districts’. The moves to endow the African Court of Justice and Human Rights with international criminal jurisdiction may well align with Crane’s wisdom. However, it is apparent that some stakeholders and observers are not convinced that justice will be served by such a move. Opponents of the international criminal jurisdiction of the African Court seem to focus on the motives of African leaders, while ignoring the potential capacity and legitimacy of the Court in this issue area. In so doing, the conversation fails to isolate the challenge(s) that needs to be addressed in the event that the proposed international criminal jurisdiction takes off. Accordingly, this contribution aims to trigger that angle to the discourse by evaluating whether the African Court is likely to be an obstacle to justice either as a result of capacity or legitimacy.

← Back to list