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Regionalizing International Criminal Law?

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This article examines the initially cooperative but increasingly tense relationship between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Africa. It assesses the various legal and political reasons for the mounting criticisms of the ICC by African governments, especially within the African Union (AU), following the indictment of incumbent Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al Bashir. The author situates the ICC within broader African efforts to establish more peaceful societies through the continent-wide AU. He submits that the ICC, by prosecuting architects of serious international crimes in Africa's numerous conflicts, could contribute significantly to the continent's fledgling peace and security architecture which aims to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts and to anticipate and avert crimes against humanity. On the other hand, the author suggests that the ICC also has much to gain from Africa, especially in these early years when it is seeking to become a functional court of law with global legitimacy. By undertaking independent, fair and credible prosecutions without alienating States Parties, the world criminal court is more likely to fulfill its mandate and to win over powerful hold outs, such as the United States, China, and India. This will help it co-opt the support necessary for its universal reach and future success. However, he cautions that given Africa's sensitive historical experience with foreign interventions, including the slave trade and colonialism, the international criminal justice regime anchored on the ICC may be undermined, or perhaps even falter, if it is perceived as having a biased, politicized or insensitive application to a single region of the world.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law Pittsburgh, PA, USA;, Email:


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