Combating Impunity While Challenging International Criminal Court: The African Paradox

  • Assefa Aregay
  • Solan Dula
Keywords: African Union; Impunity; International Crimes; International Criminal Court


International criminal justice has faced a stiff challenge in Africa since recently. Despite the original overwhelming backing for the International Criminal Court (ICC), now Africa is pulling back its support. When the African Union (AU) celebrated its 50th year anniversary in Addis Ababa in October 2013, AU condemned the ICC as „a tool of neo-colonialism and racist institution‟ unfairly targeting Africans. Consequently, it initiated a withdrawal of African states from the ICC membership, the transfer of cases pending before ICC to 'African courts'- including the newly established African Court of Justice and Human Rights. In principle, holding prosecutions in national courts is preferable. However, the local prosecution of perpetrators of international crimes is mostly impractical when the accused are the seating heads/high-ranking government officials. In one way, the judicial systems of most African countries lack a capacity to manage intricate criminal proceedings. Besides, governments do not want to see the prosecution of their officials- shielding them against criminal responsibility and embarrassment. The recent AU's effort to withdraw its member states from ICC and requesting them to decline cooperation shows the aggravating friction between the two - reversing the African states previous great support for the ICC and blurring their promise to fight impunity and human rights violations. This article, by scrutinizing the prospects of AU‟s suggested modifications to the status quo relationship between Africa and the ICC, takes the position that AU should not contradict its commitment to combat impunity by invoking the distorted „neo-colonial argument‟ against the ICC.

Keywords: African Union; Impunity; International Crimes; International Criminal Court

Author Biographies

Assefa Aregay

Ambo University, School of Law

Solan Dula

Ambo University, School of Law