In search of international criminal justice in Africa: What role for the United Nations?

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) ran into considerable controversy almost immediately after its creation. More than 10 years later, the tension between the court and the AU is palpable. The court’s perceived political prosecutions as well as procedural flaws in light of the power bestowed on the UN Security Council under Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute are some of the areas of contention. However, despite the obvious flaws of the ICC, there is also widespread scepticism that the AU can be trusted to mobilise sufficient political will to deliver justice on the continent, more so in cases where the perpetrators are sitting heads of state or government. In lieu of cooperation with the ICC and the UN, can the AU deliver justice to victims of gross human rights abuses? Are extraordinary African Chambers such as the one created in Senegal to try the former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre an alternative to the ICC? This article argues that it is only through a partnership of convenience between the AU and the UN that victims of human rights abuses on the continent can access justice. Furthermore, the article opines that calls for African states to withdraw from the ICC en mass must be vigorously opposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-441
Number of pages19
JournalSouth African Journal of International Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2 Oct 2017


  • African union
  • International criminal court
  • International criminal justice
  • Partnership
  • Political will

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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