The Malabo protocol, the ICC, and the idea of 'regional complementarity'

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The African Union (AU) has taken steps to regionalize international criminal law through the expansion of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR) vis-à-vis the Malabo Protocol. The principle of complementarity is a cornerstone of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Rome Statute crystallizes a complementary relationship between the ICC and domestic legal systems under Article 17 but makes no mention of regional or ad hoc jurisdictions. Prospects for including regional jurisdictions within the principle of complementarity are contingent upon a positive judicial interpretation of the principle and clearly established obligations at each level. It will necessarily require funding and support by states. Such an approach will contribute to the ongoing development of a robust system of international criminal justice. In order to effectively resolve the issue of competing mandates and effective domestic implementation, a cooperative model needs to be espoused. Although hypothetical at present, the idea of 'regional complementarity' is one worth thinking about in the context of constructive reform at the ICC. The prospective ACJHR offers a useful framework to analyse the potential role of regional mechanisms within the international criminal law project, broadly considered.




Nimigan, S. (2019). The Malabo protocol, the ICC, and the idea of “regional complementarity.” Journal of International Criminal Justice, 17(5), 1005–1029.

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