[T]he number of cases that reach the Court should not be a measure of its efficiency. On the contrary, the absence of trials before this Court, as a consequence of regular functioning of national institutions, would be a major success– Luis Moreno Ocampo
Former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court
Ending impunity and ensuring accountability for the most serious crimes is a priority for the international community. This united concern for crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide resulted in the creation of a permanent international court in 2002. The first twelve years of the International Criminal Court's existence have been characterised both by successes and evident shortcomings. However, as the first permanent international accountability mechanism, the ICC cannot wage the war against international crimes alone, and so it falls to domestic systems to assist by signing, ratifying, domesticating ICC legislation, and litigating core crimes in a domestic context.
Whilst universal jurisdiction has been a popular and useful method to try international crimes over the past twenty years, (particularly in Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom) the domestication of ICC legislation is proving to be a far more efficient and pragmatic augmentation to customary international law notions of universal jurisdiction in an African context. Advancing the African international criminal justice project means that there must be a true understanding of international criminal law as a matter of national importance.
Ensuring that there is justice beyond the bounds of The Hague involves the realisation and actualisation of the principle of complementarity. This principle, as enshrined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, allows the ICC to be a court of last resort, giving the domestic systems primary jurisdiction. Complementarity is one of the founding principles of the Rome Statute, and the vision of the drafters at the Rome Conference was a comprehensive system of international justice, where states take it upon themselves to investigate and prosecute international crimes. As a court of last resort, the ICC acts when a state is unwilling or unable to carry out its responsibilities.2 For maximum complementarity to work, states are required to sign, ratify, and domesticate the Rome Statute, effectively giving them the legislative framework to address crimes that shock the conscience of humanity.