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The Prosecutorial Interpretation of the Complementarity Principle: Does It Really Contribute to Ending Impunity on the National Level?

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The complementarity regime serves as a system to encourage and facilitate the compliance of states with their responsibility to investigate and prosecute international core crimes. It can contribute to the creation of an effective indirect enforcement mechanism among state parties to the Rome Statute; however, the current practice of the ICC falls short of materializing that. In the Ugandan case, the Ugandan referral displays a number of negative aspects regarding the ICC prosecutorial policy in practice. Firstly, Uganda does not seem to fulfil the "inability" criterion as stipulated in Article 17. Secondly, the policy of encouraging and seeking state referrals might lead to certain negative outcomes vis-à-vis fulfilling the purposes of the Rome Statute to end impunity. The presumption that state referrals could guarantee state cooperation is over simplistic. The ICC's position in the DRC situation raises other concerns, particularly with regard to the ICC's approach to cases of "inaction". Lubanga and Germain Katanga were already in the Congolese custody waiting trial for more serious crimes when the ICC requested their surrender considering that the DRC was not investigating the crimes the ICC has been investigating. The Congolese judicial system, at least in certain areas of the DRC (including Kinshasa) was "able and willing". Based on the above, the article concludes that the ICC Prosecutor's policy on the admissibility of "inactions" could encourage in theory national systems to prosecute core crimes; however, in reality it could lead to the opposite.

Affiliations: 1: Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, Middle East Office Lecturer, International Law and Organizations, American University of Beirut, Lebanon


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