Jump to navigation

confidentially speaking

The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 6th August 2020

New battles at the International Criminal Court

Blue Lines

The future of the International Criminal Court is in question again as it tries to choose a successor to the prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. The United States, although it has never joined the ICC, stepped up its attacks on the court this year, barring its officials from US territory and threatening 'sanctions' against them should they investigate US nationals. Distrust of the ICC may be a rare point of convergence between African governments and President Trump's administration.

Some African countries would support the court more if they could reform it. There are candidates for its top post of prosecutor from Nigeria and Uganda, as well as Ireland and Canada.

Relations between the ICC and Africa have thawed since 2016 when a handful of countries, including South Africa and Gambia, announced plans to withdraw from the Court, then abandoned them. Bad blood lingers from when leaders from across the continent accused the ICC of neo-colonialism and targeting African leaders.

Kenya's Ambassador to the Hague was the first to reject of the proposed candidates on the grounds that they lack 'managerial and diplomatic experience'. Nairobi's stance dates back the ICC's failed attempts to prosecute President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto for involvement in the violence that followed the 2007 presidential elections. Convention suggests that the successor to Bensouda cannot come from the same region but there are hints that African leaders will play hardball. The court's members have until December to choose a successor.