International criminal justice has been accepted by many in Africa, though one may not get that impression from listening to some African leaders; the May 2013 African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa saw several leaders denounce the “racist” nature of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The June 30 arrest in Senegal of Chad’s former president Hissene Habre, after 13 years of judicial proceedings, was a big reason to celebrate “International Criminal Justice day,” a day created by the ICC in 2010 to commemorate the entry into force of the Rome Statute on July 17, 2002. But there are tensions between the ICC and African leaders, and although thirty-four African countries are among the 122 states parties to the Rome Statute, international criminal justice in Africa has yet to be fully embraced.
- The recent indictment and arrest of former Chadian President Hissene Habre in Senegal lends credibility to the international justice system.
- However, simmering tensions between African leaders and the international community over the handling of African situations by the ICC are preventing an effective and timely implementation of international criminal justice in Africa.
- Nigeria's refusal to arrest President Omar al-Bashir in July (citing its AU obligations) and the ICC’s refusal to move William Ruto’s trial to his home country of Kenya have caused additional strain on the relationship between the AU and the ICC.
- Beyond the AU’s emphasis on peace and national reconciliation, credible justice and accountability processes in Africa should not be marginalized nor unnecessarily delayed.
Exiled in Senegal since 1990, Chadian dictator Hissene Habre was finally charged on July 2, 2013, with war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture committed during his eight-year violent rule marked by an estimated 40,000 political killings. Initiated in 2000, the judicial proceedings against Habre were durably stalled under former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade. The proceedings were accelerated by a 2012 decision of the International Court of Justice, which called on Senegal to either try former president Habre without further delay, or extradite him.