Washington International Law Journal


The International Criminal Court was set up as a court of last resort to prosecute the most serious crimes under international law when its member states are either unable or unwilling to act. The African Union initially welcomed the court due to the continent’s history of violence and war. However, their soured when the ICC began indicting African heads of state and government officials. Since then, there has been a constant “battle” over whether such defendants could invoke immunity under customary international law. General criticism of the ICC by the African Union and other observers for its lack of focus has turned into region-specific criticism of the court as a “Western tool,” singling out and targeting African leaders. Consequently, African states have started to refuse to cooperate with the Court. At an AU Summit in January 2018, a resolution was adopted to seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the issue of immunity in respect to the ICC. This article will elaborate on the often-strained AU-ICC relationship prior to the 2018 AU Summit before examing three scenarios highlighting how an ICJ decision would affect the present AU-ICC relationship. The article concludes with recommendations and the observation that a compromise must be sought to end the current standoff and impasse.

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