The International Criminal Court in Africa: challenges and opportunities

Executive summary:

This policy paper is a practically-oriented comparative analysis of the work of the International Criminal Court in Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and the Central African Republic, and the policy implications for its work for Norway, States Parties, civil society, and key states. The paper argues that all actors, including Norway, should more seriously engage these African states – and key stakeholders within them – to facilitate the work of the ICC to stem impunity. Without such support, the paper concludes, the ICC’s objectives in Africa will not be realised.

Each of the four countries under review here has its own unique internal political questions that drive its posture towards the ICC. Deference should be paid to these internal differences. But that should not trump the interests of justice and peace, and the larger international consensus on how to address the question of impunity. Elites in states with a large democratic deficit should be pressed and supported to respond to barbaric atrocities. That is why the ICC was established – to depoliticise the struggle against impunity where governments cannot (or lack the political will to) hold accountable those responsible for egregious atrocities.

In light of the review, the paper makes recommendations on how Norway and key stakeholders – States Parties, the United Nations, European Union, United States, and African Union – can more fully support the work of the ICC in Africa. They include encouraging domestic investigations and prosecutions; deepening regional partnerships; further empowering the Court; and cooperating with the ICC to close the “impunity gap”. There are also several recommendations for stakeholders with regard to the countries under consideration. They include imposing sanctions and restrictions on Sudan's top officials as part of the efforts to bring the President Omar al-Bashir to justice; pursuing inquiries in the Central African Republic into the case of an ex-president arguably responsible for atrocities; working with Ugandan civil society; and issuing arrest-warrants for Kenyan officials implicated in the post-election violence of January 2008. All these initiatives will advance efforts to end impunity for horrendous crimes.