The ICC: Better Health than Ever

Despite its relatively young lifespan as a judicial institution, there are many that have written the ICC off as ineffective. This position was supported in recent times with calls from the African Union to start a mass exit following allegations of the Court having an African bias. These criticisms appear to be misguided and the ICC should be considered stronger than ever before.

Since 2016, the ICC has been formally served with withdrawal notices from three stars – South Africa, The Gambia, and Burundi. This, coupled with members of the African Union encouraging others to follow suit has created difficulties for the Court.

Since the turn of 2017, the withdrawals from South Africa and The Gambia have been revoked and it appears that the fears from many of its supporters that this would be the beginning of the end for the Court have been premature.

The argument of the ICC being too focused on African states should also not be given too much thought. Whilst it is true that many of the investigations have centred on African states, many of these have been self-referred. Furthermore, the Office of the Prosecutor, the organ of the Court that decides which investigations it will follow through with, is held by a Gambian woman.

Whilst there may be legitimacy issues with the non-involvement of powerful states and issues relating to the enforcement of arrest warrants, the Court appears to be in good health, with states that have made the decision to leave having a change of heart. It can only be hoped in the near future that other issues of the young Court can be ironed out and it becomes an effective judicial mechanism in enforcing international law.


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