Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Africans and Hague Justice Conference

On the 23rd and the 24th of May 2014, The Netherlands Association for African Studies (NVAS) together with the Hague University of Applied Sciences (HHS) as well as the Netherlands School of Human Rights Research (SHRR) hosted the multidisciplinary conference Africans and Hague Justice: Realities and Perceptions of the International Criminal Court in Africa, which was held at the University of Applied Sciences in The Hague. The conference was groundbreaking in that it reflected the complex and multi-layered perceptions of the International Criminal Court and Africa from the perspective of various different disciplines and backgrounds.

Thematic angles included the ICC’s influence on national politics as well as interstate relationships in Africa, the position of the African Union in the African debate on the ICC, the role of ICC bodies such as the African Court and the socio-cultural impact of the ICC and its compatibility with other international judicial frameworks.

Keynote addresses were given by Professor Makau Mutua, Dean of SUNY Buffalo Law School, Professor Kamari Clarke, Professor of Anthropology and Law at the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Charles Jalloh, Associate Professor at Florida International Law School, as well as Dr. Solomon Dersso from the Institute of Security Studies, in Addis Ababa and last but yet not least, Shamiso Mbizvo from the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor.  Aside from the high quality and lively presentations given, there were also were a number of side events including an art exhibition, showcasing cartoons by Creative Court, as well as a number of bookstalls presenting the latest publications by Eleven Publishers, Brill Publishers and Intersentia, which had to do with some of the themes of the conference. There was also wide media coverage of the event by various media agencies, including the Dutch Newspaper Trouw, which ran an insightful piece on Court through the lenses of two keynote speakers, Solomon Dersso and Makau Mutua.

Prof. Makau Mutua
Dr. Solomon Dersso
The conference comes at a pressing time, where the ICC’s reputation is increasingly becoming compromised in Africa, given the fact that all ICC prosecutions opened are against Africans. This has resulted in a perceived loss of legitimacy for the Court from the viewpoint of many academics and scholars, not only in Africa, but also throughout the world.  The Hague Justice Conference has been one of the first, of hopefully many conferences to come, aiming to exposition the many underlying issues at play regarding the ICC and its impact in Africa over the past decade. Issues alluded to in the past through media reports and the few academic articles covering topics such as the ICC’s legitimacy, its relationship with the African Union and African society in general, have been sparse and often of the time publicly denied or ‘swept under the carpet’ by some academics and ICC officials alike. But from the recent discussions at the conference, it has emerged that major challenges lie in wake of current and future ICC prosecutions. If the Court is to function optimally, there needs to be open and honest discussion facilitating solutions to problems identified, to strengthen the Court as an international justice mechanism.          

Hopefully, conferences following in the same 'ICC vein' will be bold enough to gauge broader views from multidisciplinary audiences necessary to address crucial criticisms, essential to developing a fair and effective International Criminal Court.

So kudos go out to the members of the organizing committee, Froukje Krijtenburg, Eefje de Volder, Jos Walenkamp and (myself) Ingrid Roestenburg-Morgan for bringing this conference to life and making it a real success J

For more information on the conference read the views of Cecilia Bailliet, on her Blog IntLawGrrls available at:

Posted by Ingrid Roestenburg-Morgan

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