Acceptance of International Criminal Justice

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Research projects

The Kenya project focuses on the acceptance of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) by different actors in Kenya. In 2010 the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to initiate investigations concerning the 2007/8 post-elections violence (PEV) on the grounds of alleged crimes against humanity and domestic inaction concerning the criminal accountability of possible perpetrators. During the PEV, approximately 1,300 civilians were killed and 650,000 people displaced, marking the most severe incidence of violent conflict in Kenya’s post-independence history. 

The study strives to assess the acceptance of the ICC in particular by political elites, affected ethnic communities and traditional authorities, victim groups as well as civil society actors. So far, several actors in the country have both directly or indirectly interacted with the ICC, in part because the PEV was widespread and thus affected many and the ICC trials have been the only genuine efforts concerning criminal accountability. The ICC has played a crucial role in Kenya’s post conflict transition which is why it is important to assess its acceptance at local level. 

Acceptance is hereby defined as “the agreement either expressly or by conduct to the principles of international criminal justice in one or more of its forms (laws, intuitions or processes)”. For the purposes of this research, the acceptance of the ICC will be assessed by analyzing the expressions and conduct of different actors in relation to the court. Taking into consideration the developments of the debate on the ICC, the overall research focus lies on understanding how international criminal justice is accepted by different actors in Kenya through situating their positions on the ICC and how they have changed over time. Further, it seeks to identify which aspects or processes of the ICC are accepted or not accepted by the respective actors. 

The Nigeria project discusses the acceptance of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) processes amongst different key actors in Nigeria. Due to the resource conflicts in the Delta region, the intercommunity violence in the North-Central region and the ongoing armed conflict involving Boko Haram, the usage of ICJ mechanisms in Nigeria has been widely discussed. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has initiated preliminary examinations concerning acts of war crimes allegedly committed by members of Boko Haram and the Nigerian Army in 2012. Since initiating the named preliminary examinations and recommendations given by the ICC for the admissibility of a case in the court, no further steps or pronouncements have been publicly made by the actors involved concerning possible International Criminal Justice (ICJ) processes. 

One of the main research questions relates to understanding whether or not the acceptance of the ICC is related to the perceptions and expectations for speedy processes and if the delay in prosecutions would affect the acceptance of ICJ by the different actors in Nigeria. Thus, in wake of the recent developments, the study specifically focuses on the forms and dynamics of ICJ acceptance taking into consideration the preliminary examinations against Boko Haram. Therefore, the analysis assesses the perceptions on this matter by key actors, such as policy makers, victims, NGOs, lawyers and researchers within three different regions in Nigeria, namely Abuja, Lagos and Nassarawa. The latter is especially important as many victims of the Boko Haram attacks have been relocated to Nassarawa. Lastly, the project examines the factors that influence or discourage ICJ acceptance in Nigeria.

The Palestine project addresses the acceptance of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) by various actors in Palestine. Palestine formally became Member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on April 1, 2015, as the 123rd State. On January 16, 2015, the ICC Prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine following a request by the Palestinian Government, lodged under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute – the Court's founding treaty – accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC over alleged crimes committed "in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, since June 13, 2014." This covers events prior to and during the summer 2014 conflict. 

Acceptance of ICJ in the Palestinian context is expected to internationalize the investigation into the Israel-Palestine conflict and operationalize its political and legal rights as a State in the international system. Especially in the context of the ongoing conflict with Israel and the question of Palestine’s Statehood, it is essential to understand how International Criminal Justice influences or is influenced by these circumstances. The study more specifically focuses on the reasons local key actors believe to have been decisive for joining the ICC. Furthermore, they are consulted on their opinions on the ICC membership, opinions on a future cooperation with the ICC and how complementarity challenges might be addressed. Actors considered in this context are politicians, government officials, academics, prosecutors, legal professionals and members of NGOs. 

The Uganda project assesses the acceptance of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) mechanisms by different actors in northern Uganda. For decades until 2006, northern Uganda had encountered itself in an armed conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Uganda’s national armed forces. In 2003, Uganda’s President Museveni referred the situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Since then, the ICC has initiated investigations against five LRA commanders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Despite relative peace returning to northern Uganda, the legacies of the conflict have not been fully addressed. Most pressingly, it is not clear how to deal with crimes committed by the Government of Uganda and Uganda People’s Defence Forces. 

The search for justice for the victims of human rights violations under the ICJ framework comes at a time when there is a semblance of peace in northern Uganda. Many critics of the ICC argue that ICC prosecutions are therefore a threat to both the nearly ten year period of peace and any possibility of reconciliation between perpetrators and victims since in many cases both come from the same communities. Many local actors thus argue that other forms of Transitional Justice, such as a Truth Commissions, Reparations and Traditional African Justice would be more appropriate and would promise higher chances of success.

Therefore, it is important to investigate whether key actors that have been involved in the conflict and the peace process accept ICJ mechanisms and how this affects the acceptance of the ICC. In order to understand if and how key actors in northern Uganda accept ICJ processes and mechanisms, it is important to analyze the processes and mechanisms being used to redress gross human rights violations and international crimes committed in northern Uganda. Furthermore, it is important to analyze factors that might influence the acceptance of ICJ, such as the ICC prosecution strategy, traditional or cultural practices, peace, truth telling, marginalization, local knowledge, ethnicity and reconciliation.

The Ukraine project addresses the acceptance of International Criminal Justice (ICJ) processes in Ukraine. There is reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in the context of the conflict in south-eastern Ukraine. As a result of the conflict more than 8,000 people have been killed and over two million have been displaced. Ukraine has signed but not yet ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and is as such not an official member of the ICC. The ratification is blocked by a 2001 decision of the Constitutional Court which ruled that the Statute was incompatible with the Ukrainian Constitution. However, in 2014 and again in January 2015, several members of Parliament put forward proposals for a Constitutional amendment to allow Ukraine to join the ICC. Draft amendments to the Constitution include a provision to postpone the ratification of the Rome Statute by three years.

Ukraine is not a member to the ICC. Nonetheless, in September 2015, the Ukrainian Government granted the ICC ad hoc jurisdiction over all international crimes that have taken place on Ukrainian territory since February 20, 2014. The ICC decided to open a preliminary examination into the Ukrainian situation. Thus, it is essential to investigate whether a self-referral has implications on the acceptance of ICJ and how key actors from civil society, government and the legal profession perceive ICJ in the wake of the on-going conflict.

The study will shed light on the attitude of actors towards ICJ and explore how these attitudes have changed over time. It is expected to find that the actors are influenced by one another in accepting or rejecting ICJ and are as well influenced by internal factors, such as the usage of ICJ and ICC as a tool for achieving strategic goals. Lastly, the study explores the prospects of ICJ acceptance for a peace process and quest for national unity in Ukraine.