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  • Cited by 41
  • Phil Clark, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
November 2018
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:

Book description

There are a number of controversies surrounding the International Criminal Court (ICC) in Africa. Critics have charged it with neo-colonial meddling in African affairs, accusing it of undermining national sovereignty and domestic attempts to resolve armed conflict. Here, based on 650 interviews over 11 years, Phil Clark critically assesses the politics of the ICC in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, focusing particularly on the Court's multi-level impact on national politics and the lives of everyday citizens. He explores the ICC's effects on peace negotiations, national elections, domestic judicial reform, amnesty processes, combatant demobilisation and community-level accountability and reconciliation. In attempting to distance itself from African conflict zones geographically, philosophically and procedurally, Clark also reveals that the ICC has become more politicised and damaging to African polities, requiring a substantial rethink of the approaches and ideas that underpin the ICC's practice of distant justice.


‘Many people talk about the effects of the International Criminal Court in Africa, but Phil Clark is easily the most learned and therefore qualified to do so. His careful and lucid investigation of how justice from afar has transformed local politics is a thrilling achievement.'

Samuel Moyn - Yale University, Connecticut

‘Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Distant Justice is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the vexed relationship between the International Criminal Court and African governments. Phil Clark mounts a compelling critique of the ICC's complicated entanglements in Africa and advises caution regarding what international legal responses to mass atrocities can usefully accomplish.'

Richard Ashby Wilson - author of Incitement on Trial: Prosecuting International Speech Crimes

‘Phil Clark has written the definitive book on Africa and the International Criminal Court. Distant Justice has it all - extensive research, vivid interviews, creative insights, gentle lessons, and an upbeat cadence. With laser-sharp focus, Clark exposes the limits of international law. And with energetic optimism, he shows how law can do better.'

Mark A. Drumbl - Washington and Lee University, Virginia

‘This book took 11 years in the writing and it was worth the wait. Phil Clark confirms his reputation as amongst the best Africanist scholars writing on transitional justice. Distant Justice is empirically grounded - the lived experiences of over 650 interviewees shine through. It is also theoretically rich and beautifully written. If you want to understand the relationship between justice, politics and international relations in Africa, read it. It's a tour de force.'

Kieran McEvoy - Queen's University Belfast

'In Distant Justice, Phil Clark has written an epochal work on the ICC. He allows the facts and the evidence to speak without political varnish. Clark appropriately indicts the ICC for being an imperial project that’s tone deaf about its deficits. However, he pleads for deep reforms and correctly rejects the arguments to throw the baby out with the bathwater.'

Makau Mutua - State University of New York

'Few international institutions - not even that old bête noir, the International Monetary Fund - have drawn as much political ire in Africa as the ICC. Needless to say, the reasons are varied and intricate. By focusing on the issue of 'distance' Phil Clark’s far-reaching examination of the ICC in Africa offers new and interesting perspectives on why the relationship is so conflicted and dysfunctional. It also critically re-engages with the phenomenon of 'justice' as (mis)understood across borders and cultures. Distant Justice is a highly-nuanced, deeply researched and wide-ranging exploration of the intersection between international institutions, domestic (and regional) politics and on-the-ground perspectives of ordinary individuals about a phenomenon of such critical relevance to contemporary society.'

J. Oloka-Onyango - author of When Courts do Politics

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