With a long history of grave crimes, African states and civil society were instrumental in pushing for the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) - support reflected in the large number of ICC member states and highly active civil society members of our Coalition. 

Africa and the ICC

Campaign for Global Justice 

A majority of African states have joined the ICC. But much remains to be done to achieve full ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute into national law to allow for national prosecutions of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

While there are 34 ICC member states in Africa, the biggest regional representation, only eight African countries have fully implemented the Rome Statute into national law. Eleven have done so partially. 

The Coalition for the ICC has a network of almost 800 member organizations in Africa, many working through 21 national civil society coalitions.

In close cooperation with our Africa regional office in Benin, African civil society campaigns to promote the ratification and implementation of the Rome Statute throughout the Africa region; to raise awareness of the ICC’s mandate; to promote cooperation and support to the Court; and to organize events to support the fight against impunity.

Read more about the ICC and Africa

Read more about our work engaging the African Union

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African civil society demands justice

Together with our local partners, we are working to ensure victims’ demands for justice are met in national courts and through the ICC.

Even in the face of growing intimidation and threats to their independence, local civil society groups in many African states are continuing their work to advance accountability for grave crimes and bring justice to victims of atrocities.

Many NGOs, often working under the umbrella of long-standing national coalitions - including in Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, , and Uganda - to urge their governments to improve governance and stability through ratification of, or accession to, the ICC Rome Statute and its implementation into national law.

They have also been active in assisting the ICC in a range of areas, such as victims’ participation and reparations, documentation of crimes, outreach to counter misinformation, and politicization.

African civil society has come out strongly against calls from Kenya and other African ICC states parties to leave the Court. They are instead urging increased engagement and cooperation from the ICC’s largest regional group to develop the Rome Statute system into a truly global accountability mechanism.

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Litigating at national level to uphold Rome Statute law

Many non-governmental organizations are also taking action to press governments so that they live up to their obligations under the Rome Statute to investigate and prosecute international crimes at the national level.

Al-Bashir’s shrinking world
Civil society efforts to enforce two ICC arrest warrants for Omar al-Bashir is making the Sudanese president think twice about travelling internationally

2009, South Africa
Al-Bashir declines invitation to attend President Jacob Zuma’s inauguration after activists threaten legal action.

2010, Kenya
Civil society protests as al-Bashir attends ceremony for Kenya’s new constitution

2010, Zambia
Al-Bashir cancels planned attendance at the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region following outcry.

2010, Central African Republic
At the last minute, al-Bashir decides not to attend a celebration of 50 years of Central African Republic independence.

2012, Malawi
Malawi President Joyce Banda refuses to welcome al-Bashir for an African Union (AU) summit, forcing its relocation to Ethiopia.

2013, Nigeria
The Nigerian Coalition for the ICC applies for arrest warrant in local court as al-Bashir makes a surprise visit to the country for an AU conference. He flees less than 24 hours after his arrival.

2014, Democratic Republic of Congo
90 civil society organizations call for al-Bashir’s arrest when attending a regional summit. He leaves early.

2015, South Africa
Al-Bashir is forced to flee after civil society applies for execution of ICC arrest warrants in Pretoria’s high court.

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Raising awareness, building support

Since the establishment of the ICC, African civil society has been working to raise awareness and build support for public knowledge about the ICC, its roles—and, to manage expectations, its limitations—and how important it is for safeguarding African peoples’ right to peace and justice.

Through the innovative media outreach program employed by our Benin regional office, we are working to engage the media in Africa to provide more extensive and unbiased coverage on the ICC and international justice.

NGOs have been active around International Justice Day, organizing workshops and conferences and using the globally recognized occasion to raise awareness of atrocity crimes in Africa, among other regions, and civil society efforts toward their eradication.

Take part in International Justice Day, 17 July.

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2015 Africa Regional Strategy meeting - the takeaways

In June 2015, Coalition members from over 20 countries travelled to Benin to strategize on how to end impunity for grave crimes in Africa. These were the main takeaways.

  • Civil society’s common goal remains championing the Rome Statute (RS) system to advance accountability for the grave crimes that continue to blight many African countries. African NGOs expressed solidarity with efforts to hold the South African state to its obligations to arrest ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir in June 2015, which underlined the crucial role that civil society plays in developing peaceful and robust democracies.
  • The ICC continues to play a vital role in advancing justice in Africa. People want justice for grave crimes nationally or through the ICC. The RS gives the framework to strengthen national accountability mechanisms. African governments should work to make the ICC system more effective. Much needs to be done to raise awareness of the ICC and its mandate to bolster support and counter politicization.
  • African states have clear obligations to cooperate with the ICC. African leaders must have the courage to voice their support for the ICC at the African Union (AU) and other fora. The continuing cooperation of many states with the ICC and a growing number of national proceedings demonstrate a strong desire for justice in Africa.
  • The Assembly of States Parties must put in place strong mechanisms to deal with instances of non-cooperation, which undermine the ability of the ICC to deliver justice to victims of grave crimes.
  • Accountability for grave crimes is the responsibility of the entire international community. The UN Security Council must play its role in advancing justice. All states and international actors should renew their commitment to the ICC and RS, full cooperation and oppose any consideration of immunities for heads of state and senior government officials.
  • The mandate of the AU is consistent with the RS on the protection of human rights, including accountability for grave international crimes. The AU must advance its own mechanisms to ensure accountability, including its transitional justice framework, and engage in dialogue with the ICC.
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