African efforts to close the impunity gap: Lessons for complementarity from national and regional actions


The position taken by the African Union towards the ICC creates the impression that African states are resistant to international criminal justice. This paper argues that the reality is quite different. The continent provides many examples of international justice in practice. A review of selected domestic and regional efforts suggests that a richer understanding of the Rome Statute’s ‘complementarity’ scheme is developing – one involving states, regional organisations and civil society working to close the impunity gap. Such actions are giving effect to the notion that while the ICC can provide justice through a few highly publicised trials, for justice to be brought home in any meaningful way, domestic action is essential.

About the authors

Max du Plessis,  senior research associate at the International Crime in Africa Programme (ICAP) at the ISS. He is also an Associate Professor of Law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Bar with special expertise in international law, constitutional law and administrative law. Max has written widely in the fields of international criminal law and human rights. He is an associate tenant at Doughty Street Chambers, London.

Antoinette Louw, senior research fellow with ICAP. Before joining ICAP, Antoinette was head of the Crime and Justice Programme at ISS.

Ottilia Maunganidze, researcher with ICAP. Her focus is on international criminal justice and international human rights law.

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