Examining how international criminal law hasand hasn'tbrought justice following war crimes in Africa
Ever since World War II, the United Nations and other international actors have created laws, treaties, and institutions to punish perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These efforts have established universally recognized norms and have resulted in several high-profile convictions in egregious cases. But international criminal justice now seems to be a declining forceits energy sapped by long delays in prosecutions, lagging public attention, and a globally rising authoritarianism that disregards legal niceties.
This book reviews five examples of international criminal justice as they have been applied across Africa, where brutal civil conflicts in recent decades resulted in varying degrees of global attention and action. The first three chapters examine key international mechanisms: the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and the hybrid tribunal established in Senegal to try state crimes committed in Chad. These chapters illustrate how the design and practice of the institutions led to similarly unexpected and unsatisfying outcomes.
The final two chapters examine emerging and proposed international criminal justice mechanisms. One is a tribunal intended to facilitate peace in the new but war-torn country of South Sudan, not yet operational and unlikely to perform better than its predecessors. Finally, the book considers the developing human rights practice of the little-studied East African Court, a regional commercial court in Arusha, Tanzania, to show how local judicial creativity can win a role for courts in facilitating good governance.
Written in an accessible style, this book explores the connections between politics and the doctrine of international criminal law. Highlighting little-known institutional examples and under-discussed political situations, the book contributes to a broader international understanding of African politics and international criminal justice, as well as the lessons the African experiences offer for other regions.
This short, elegant book analyzes the attempts over the last two decades to establish international criminal justice standards in Africa. Critics of the International Criminal Court contend that its attempts to prosecute African leaders such as Uhuru Kenyatta, the former president of Kenya, or Omar al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan, smacked of neocolonialism. Yet Carlson’s perceptive analysis provides a more subtle and positive assessment. Her book focuses not only on the ICC but also other legal institutions such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the Chambres Africaines Extraordinaires that tried former Chadian President Hissène Habré in Senegal between 2015 and 2016, the African Union–sponsored hybrid court for human rights abuses in South Sudan, and the East African Court of Justice in Tanzania. Through studies of each of these courts and tribunals, Carlson shows that international legal efforts to promote human rights are always vulnerable to attack by national governments, even when those governments initiate the legal proceedings. The courts cannot compete with motivated national governments and must carefully choose their cases and doctrinal focus in order to present themselves as objective and impartial. Without such a hard-won reputation, they will not be able to improve international legal standards in Africa.