ICC complementarity in practice: Challenges, progress and prospects in Africa


The principle of complementarity is central to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and ensures that the ICC can only intervene when states are unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate or prosecute grave crimes. The Rome Statute also recalls that ‘it is the duty of every State to exercise its criminal jurisdiction over those responsible for international crimes’.

But many states lack the required legal frameworks and criminal justice capacity to investigate, prosecute and adjudicate international crimes. Concerted efforts are needed to build this domestic capacity. The international community is committed to ensuring accountability for grave crimes, and the African Union’s Panel of the Wise recognises the ICC’s potential to encourage innovative domestic judicial and non-judicial approaches to dealing with impunity.

Building domestic capacity for international criminal justice is especially important for Africa. The continent has been central to global international justice developments, and 34 of the 54 African countries have ratified the Rome Statute. African states have referred four situations to the ICC, eight countries have domesticated the Rome Statute, and many justice processes and institutions have been initiated to deal with grave crimes. This seminar will consider the challenges, progress and prospects towards ensuring that complementarity becomes a reality in practice in Africa.


  • Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, President of the ICC Assembly of State Parties (ASP): Complementarity within the Rome Statute regime
  • Wilfred Nderitu, Common Legal Representative for Victims at International Criminal Court: Complementarity in Africa: recent developments
  • Joan Kagezi, Prosecutor, International Crimes Division of the High Court of Uganda (ICD): Case studies of complementarity in practice in Africa
Chair: Jemima Kariri, Senior Researcher, ISS Pretoria

Please note: For all ISS events, specific permission must be sought from the speaker(s) concerned before anything they said can be quoted, unless indicated otherwise.

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