The ICC Reform Process and the Failure to Address the African State Concerns on the Sequencing of Peace with Criminal Justice Under Article 53 of the Rome Statute

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The relationship of African States with the permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) is critical to the continued success of the ICC and the development of international criminal law. One of the main criticisms of the ICC, by some African States, has centered on the question of how best to sequence peace with justice, or justice with peace, in situations of ongoing conflict such as in Uganda and Sudan. This paper examines the history of the peace-justice clash on the African continent in the context of the 2019 Assembly of States Parties mandated process of ICC reform, taking into account the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP) policy paper on the interests of justice. Regrettably, despite the longstanding African State Party concern about the peace-justice interface, the September 2020 ICC independent expert report produced for the Assembly of States Parties missed the opportunity to expressly address this important issue. The author submits that, while the OTP appears to have embraced a more nuanced view of the interests of retributive justice and how they relate to the interests of sustainable peace, it maybe timely for the formal ICC review process to consider how to bring further clarity to resolution of this issue in the context of the ongoing ICC reform discussions. Formally giving the OTP some guidance on how to balance the interests of justice considerations after it begins a formal investigation into a situation should help limit some of the criticisms directed towards the ICC as it engages in the challenging task of dispensing justice for victims of atrocity crimes in Africa and other parts of the world.