In This Review

Distant Justice: The Impact of the International Criminal Court on African Politics
Distant Justice: The Impact of the International Criminal Court on African Politics
By Phil Clark
Cambridge University Press, 2019, 392 pp.

The International Criminal Court’s mandate to investigate and prosecute people for genocide and crimes against humanity has made the institution deeply contentious in Africa. Clark focuses on the ICC’s work in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but his analysis applies more broadly. He argues that the ICC is a Western-dominated organization that often intervenes in Africa without giving enough deference to national institutions and with little understanding of local politics—much like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The ICC keeps its headquarters outside Africa and employs few staffers on the continent, a decision it justifies by the need to remain impartial in local political disputes. But the result, Clark explains, has been that the ICC engages little with local African communities and decision-makers, even as it has become ensnared in African politics. Clark argues that a more effective ICC could do a lot of good in Africa. He’s right—but to get there, the ICC will have to listen to his compelling criticisms.