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The African Union, the United Nations Security Council and the Politicisation of International Justice in Africa

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There are two questions with multiple answers regarding the relationship between Africa and the International Criminal Court. The first is whether the International Criminal Court is targeting Africa and the second is if politics plays any role in the decision to investigate and prosecute crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. For the African Union, the International Criminal Court has become a western court targeting weak African countries and ignoring the atrocities committed by big powers including permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The accusation by the African Union against the International Criminal Court leads to the argument that the International Criminal Court is currently politised. This is a charge consistently denied by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The aim of this paper is to discuss the relationship between the United Nations Security Council, the International Criminal Court and the African Union. It articulates the role of the three institutions in the fight against impunity and the maintenance of international peace and security with reference to the African continent. The paper argues that complementarity should be applied to regional organisations and that the relationship between the African Union and the International Criminal Court should be guided by the application of positive complementarity and a nuanced approach to the interests of justice. This offers the International Criminal Court and the African Union an opportunity to develop mutual trust and result-oriented strategies to confront the impunity on the continent. The paper further argues that the power of the United Nations Security Council to refer situations to the International Criminal Court and defer cases before the Court is a primary source of the disagreement between the prosecutor and the African Union and recommends a division of labour between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Security Council.

Affiliations: 1: Public Law Department, University of Cape TownPrivate Bag X3, Rondebosch 7701Souht


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