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By 1 January 2013May 31st, 2022International Justice12 min read

130 African civil society organisations, including SALC, have united to encourage African governments to support the ICC during the extraordinary AU summit where withdrawal from the Rome Statute will be discussed. Tension between the ICC and some African governments has reached new heights, particularly since the commencement of proceedings against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

In the letter, organisations from 34 different African countries highlight the importance of protecting human rights and international justice in Africa.  The letter explains that Africa played a crucial role during the Rome Conference and that Africa is still the largest regional bloc of signatories. It also explains that the majority of the cases before the ICC were brought to the court by the countries where the crimes were perpetrated and that only one case (Kenya) was initiated proprio moto by the Prosecutor. A balanced approach including critical engagement and working to expand the court’s reach is encouraged.

Foreign Ministers

African States Parties to the International Criminal Court

Re: Support for the ICC at African Union (AU) summit on October 11-12

Dear Foreign Minister:

We, the undersigned 149 African civil society organizations and international organizations with representatives in 35 African countries, write to urge your government to affirm its support for the ICC and the court’s treaty, the Rome Statute, during the extraordinary AU summit on the ICC scheduled for October 11-12, 2013.

As you know, the relationship between the ICC and some African governments has faced renewed challenges as the ICC’s cases for crimes committed during Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007-08 have progressed. This has led to the scheduling of the AU extraordinary summit and questions over whether some African ICC statesmay be considering withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

We believe any withdrawal from the ICC would send the wrong signal about Africa’s commitment to protect and promote human rights and reject impunity as reflected in article 4 of the AU’s Constitutive Act. Needless to say, the work and functioning of the ICC should not be beyond scrutiny and improvement. However, considerations of withdrawal risk grave consequences for civilians in Africa, who tend to bear the brunt of serious crimes committed in violation of international law.

The ICC remains the only permanent criminal court with the authority to act when a state with jurisdiction is unable or unwilling to investigate or prosecute. As organizations working within Africa, some on behalf of or alongside victims of international crimes, we see every day the importance of ensuring access to justice. It is also important to note that withdrawal from the Rome Statute would not have a legal impact on the ICC’s existing cases.

A key criticism raised by some African leaders is that the court is targeting Africa. While the ICC’s cases are entirely from Africa, the majority came before the court as a result of requests by the states where the crimes were committed (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, and Mali). Two other situations—Libya and Darfur, Sudan—were referred by the United Nations Security Council, with the support of its African members. Kenya is the only situation where the ICC Office of the Prosecutor acted on its own initiative, but only with the approval of an ICC pre-trial chamber after Kenya failed to take action to ensure justice domestically.

We recognize that international justice currently operates unevenly across the globe. In some situations, powerful governments are able to shield their citizens and the citizens of their allies from the ICC’s authority by not joining the ICC or using their veto power at the Security Council to block referrals of situations to the court.

We will continue to work with your government and other partners to ensure consistency in the application of international justice, including pressing against double standards at the Security Council. But undercutting justice for crimes where it is possible because justice is not yet possible in all situations risks emboldening those who might commit grave crimes. Working to expand, rather than contract, the membership of the ICC is a key step in widening access to justice and sending the message that no one is above the law.

The ICC’s role in Kenya underscores the court’s role as a crucial court of last resort, and we urge your government to signal support for this process to run its course.

Kenya’s leaders in 2008 initially agreed to set up a special tribunal to try cases related to the post-election violence, which claimed more than 1100 lives, destroyed livelihoods, and displaced more than a half-million people. But when efforts to create the tribunal or to move forward cases in ordinary courts failed, the ICC prosecutor opened an investigation. This had been recommended by a national commission of inquiry set up as part of an African Union-mediated agreement to end the violence.

Although the African Union, at the initiative of Kenya and Uganda, called for a “referral” of the ICC’s cases to a national mechanism in Kenya at its May 2013 summit, such referral is only for the ICC judges to decide on the basis of a legal challenge to the ICC, known as an admissibility challenge. In view of a lack of genuine national investigations and prosecutions, the ICC judges in 2011 rejected a challenge by the Kenyan government in these cases. Even since that decision there have not been serious efforts within Kenya to mount investigations and prosecutions of the post-election violence.

Kenya has put governments in an awkward position by pressing for action to avoid the ICC’s cases for crimes committed in Kenya while having failed to avail itself of the legal procedures for the court to authorize such a move based on credible domestic investigation and prosecution. If adopted, a recent resolution by the Kenyan parliament to repeal the country’s International Crimes Act also would mean that the country would lose an important tool for the domestic prosecution of international crimes.

African states have been some of the most important supporters of the creation and effective functioning of the ICC. African states played an active role at the negotiations to establish the court, and 34 African states—a majority of African Union member states—have now become ICC states parties. As discussed above, African governments have sought the ICC’s assistance to carry out investigations and prosecutions, and Africans are also among the highest-level ICC officials and staff and serve as judges at the court.

In this context, we urge your government to work to ensure support within Africa for the ICC and its critical role in the fight against impunity, including in Kenya. This includes by signaling at AU meetings, in public comments, and in bilateral discussions with other African governments that the court represents a vital instrument in the fight against impunity.

We would welcome the chance to discuss this important issue further and civil society organizations with offices in your country will be in contact to set up a meeting on these matters.


  1. DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Botswana
  2. Amnesty International Burkina Faso
  3. l’Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture au Burundi
  4. Action pour le Droit et le Bien-être de l’Enfant, Burundi
  5. Association of Female Lawyers of Burundi
  6. Burundi Coalition for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Burundi
  7. Fontaine-ISOKO pour la Bonne Gouvernance et le Développement Intégré, Asbl,


  1. Forum for Strengthening Civil Society, Burundi
  2. Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement, Burundi
  3. Ligue burundaise des droits de l’Homme, Burundi
  4. Réseau des Citoyens Probes, Burundi
  5. Cameroon Coalition for the ICC, Cameroon
  6. Gender Empowerment and Development, Cameroon
  7. Association of Female Lawyers of Cape Verde
  8. Central African Coalition for the ICC, Central African Republic
  9. Association tchadienne pour la promotion et le défense des droits de l’Homme, Chad
  10. Ligue tchadienne des droits de l’Homme, Chad
  11. Ivorian Coalition for the ICC, Côte d’Ivoire
  12. Ligue ivoirienne des droits de l’Homme, Côte d’Ivoire
  13. Mouvement ivoirien des droits humains, Côte d’Ivoire
  14. Réseau Equitas Côte d’Ivoire
  15. Access to Justice, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
  16. Christian Activists Actions for Human Rights in Shabunda, DRC
  17. Congo Peace Network, DRC
  18. Congolese Foundation for the Promotion of Human Rights and Peace, DRC
  19. Coordination Office of the Civil Society of South Kivu, DRC
  20. Democratic Republic of the Congo National Coalition for the ICC, DRC
  21. League for Peace, Human Rights and Justice, DRC
  22. La Ligue des Elécteurs, DRC
  23. Ligue pour la Promotion et le Développement Intégral de la Femme et de l’Enfant,


  1. The Lotus Group, DRC
  2. Synergie des ONGs Congolaises pour les Victimes, DRC
  3. Vision GRAM- International, DRC
  4. Vision Sociale asbl, DRC
  5. Eastern Africa Journalists Association, Djibouti
  6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Egypt
  7. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt
  8. Human Rights Concern, Eritrea
  9. The Civil Society Associations Gambia
  10. Coalition For Change, Gambia
  11. Abibiman Foundation, Ghana
  12. Amnesty International Ghana
  13. Centre for Popular Education and Human Rights, Ghana
  14. Communication for Social Change, Ghana
  15. Ghana Center for Democratic Development, Ghana
  16. Media Foundation for West Africa, Ghana
  17. Association des victimes, parents et amis du 28 septembre 2009, Guinea
  18. Organisation guinéenne des droits de l’Homme et du Citoyen, Guinea
  19. Amnesty International Kenya
  20. Civil Society Organization’s Network, Kenya
  21. Independent Medico-Legal Unit, Kenya
  22. International Commission of Jurists Kenya
  23. Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, Kenya
  24. Transformation Resource Center, Lesotho
  25. Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives, Liberia
  26. Concerned Christian Community, Liberia
  27. Foundation for International Dignity, Liberia
  28. Liberia Research and Public Policy Center, Liberia
  29. National Civil Society Council of Liberia
  30. Rights and Rice Foundation, Liberia
  31. Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Malawi
  32. Centre for the Development of People, Malawi
  33. Civil Liberties Committee, Malawi
  34. Church and Society Programme, Malawi
  35. Association malienne des droits de l’Homme, Mali
  36. Coalition Malienne des Défenseurs des Droits Humains, Mali
  37. FEMNET-Mali
  38. Mali Coalition for the ICC, Mali
  39. NamRights, Namibia
  40. Access to Justice, Nigeria
  41. Alliances for Africa, Nigeria
  42. BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights, Nigeria
  43. BraveHeart Initiative for Youth & Women, Nigeria
  44. Center for Citizens Rights, Nigeria
  45. Centre for Democracy and Development, Nigeria
  46. Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, Nigeria
  47. Citizens Center for Integrated Development & Social Rights, Nigeria
  48. Civil Liberties Organisation, Nigeria
  49. Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre, Nigeria
  50. Coalition of Eastern NGOs, Nigeria
  51. Human Rights Agenda Network Nigeria
  52. Human Rights Social Development and Environmental Foundation, Nigeria
  53. Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Nigeria
  54. Justice, Development and Peace Commission, Nigeria
  55. Legal Resources Consortium, Nigeria
  56. National Coalition on Affirmative Action, Nigeria
  57. Nigeria Coalition for the International Criminal Court, Nigeria
  58. Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, Nigeria
  59. West African Bar Association, Nigeria
  60. Engagement for peace and human rights, Republic of the Congo
  61. Human Rights First Rwanda Association, Rwanda
  62. Amnesty International Senegal
  63. Ligue sénégalaise des droits humains, Senegal
  64. Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Sierra Leone
  65. Coalition for Justice and Accountability, Sierra Leone
  66. Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  67. Co-operative for Research and Education, South Africa
  68. Darfur Solidarity, South Africa
  69. International Crime in Africa Programme, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa
  70. South Africa Forum for International Solidarity, South Africa
  71. Southern Africa Litigation Centre, South Africa
  72. Children Education Society, Tanzania
  73. Services Health & Development for people living positively with HIV/AIDS,


104.Tanzania Pastoralist Community Forum, Tanzania

105.Amnesty International Togo

106.West African Human Rights Network, Togo

  1. Advocates for Public International Law Uganda
  2. African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, Uganda

109.Community Development and Child Welfare Initiatives, Uganda

  1. Corruption Brakes Crusade, Uganda
  2. East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Uganda
  3. Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Uganda

113.Human Rights Network Uganda

114.Kumi Human Rights Initiative, Uganda

115.Lira NGO Forum, Uganda

  1. People for Peace and Defence of Rights, Uganda
  2. Soroti Development Association & NGOs Network, Uganda
  3. Uganda Coalition on International Criminal Court, Uganda
  4. Uganda Victims Foundation, Uganda

120.Women Peace and Security, Uganda

  1. Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Zambia

122.Amnesty International Zimbabwe

  1. Counselling Services Unit, Zimbabwe
  2. Coalition for the International Criminal Court, with offices in Benin and the

Democratic Republic of the Congo

125.Enough Project, with offices in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South

Sudan, and Uganda

126.Human Rights Watch, with offices in Kenya and South Africa

  1. International Federation for Human Rights, with offices in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea,

Kenya, and Mali

  1. Parliamentarians for Global Action, with offices in the Democratic Republic of the

Congo and Uganda

129.West African Journalists Association, with offices in Mali and Senegal

130.Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, with offices in Egypt and Uganda

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