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The African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights ‘International Criminal Law Section’: Promoting Impunity for African Union Heads of State and Senior State Officials?

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On 27 June 2014 the African Union (AU) Assembly adopted a protocol entitled ‘Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights’. This Protocol contains an annex entitled ‘Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights’. The Protocol and the Statute annexed to it provide for the establishment of a regional court in Africa to be known as the ‘African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights’ (African Court). This Court will, among others, exercise criminal jurisdiction over a wide range of international crimes involving individual criminal responsibility and corporate criminal liability over legal persons (with the exception of States), which goes beyond any other international court or hybrid tribunal. This article considers reasons for establishing a regional court in Africa with criminal jurisdiction and examines the likely effectiveness of the African Court focussing on the wide jurisdiction conferred on the Court; the impact of immunity from criminal prosecution granted to serving AU heads of State and other undefined ‘senior State officials’; and the need to strengthen national criminal jurisdictions to enable them to prosecute international crimes in Africa.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of International Law and Human Rights, Brunel Law School, Brunel University, London, UK, ; 2: Research Fellow, Centre for International & Public Law (cipl), Brunel Law School, Brunel University, London, UK,


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