African Court Research Initiative-FIU College of Law International Criminal Law Expert Conference

The Potential Impact and Limits of the Criminal Jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Court Research Initiative (ACRI), a collaboration between FIU Law Professor Charles Jalloh and Professor Kamari Clarke (University of Pennsylvania), with funding from the Open Society Justice Initiative and support from the Pan African Lawyers Union, will host a conference featuring international criminal law scholars and practitioners on Friday and Saturday, March 20-21. The purpose is to examine the African Union’s July 2014 treaty which would establish a criminal chamber within the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights to prosecute serious international and transnational crimes committed on the African continent. The new Court, which is the first permanent international criminal tribunal to be embedded in a regional human rights court, has a number of exciting legal innovations in its founding treaty which hold significant ramifications for international law’s development in Africa and around the world. Dr. Vincent Nmehielle of the Legal Counsel for the African Union will serve as the keynote speaker.

The controversies concerning the African Court’s jurisdiction have emerged in the shadow of tensions between the African Union and the International Criminal Court (ICC). The issues have concerned whether the future tribunal is intended to undermine or replace the world’s first and only permanent court. The African Court has also attracted attention due to the negative reactions from civil society concerning the inclusion of an immunity clause that would give temporary reprieve to sitting African presidents, their deputies and other senior government officials. How will the new court interact with national courts in African States? What legal and practical relationship, if any, will it have with the ICC in The Hague? Does the newly adopted legal framework of the African Court make it likely to play an effective role to fight against gross violations in Africa? Might the criminal chamber help advance the development of international criminal law for the international community as a whole given its corporate criminal liability and other important innovations? How can pro human rights African States reconcile their pronouncements against impunity with their support for the immunity clause in the July 2014 treaty? These and other related questions will be the subject of intense debate during the two-day FIU expert conference which will consist of a welcome and keynote address, followed by two days of high level discussions featuring well regarded international criminal law practitioners and academics from across the United States and around the world.

The specialists will evaluate, among other issues, the court’s subject matter jurisdiction over serious international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and piracy, modes of individual and corporate criminal responsibility, head of state immunity for international crimes, complementarity in the regional court vis-à-vis African states and the ICC, the questions of peace versus justice or peace and justice in Africa, and next steps for the actors who will litigate in the Court.

“This is the first scholarly conference in the United States to comprehensively examine the legal framework of the African Criminal Court,” said FIU Law Dean R. Alexander Acosta. “These kinds of expert meetings highlight the work that some of our international law faculty, like Professor Jalloh, engage in.”

Professor Jalloh, a renowned international criminal lawyer who practiced law in several international criminal tribunals before joining FIU Law explains: “It is probably the first symposium outside Africa convened specifically with the goal of untangling how the new regional court will interact with and complement the permanent ICC in The Hague. What we will be doing at FIU Law is important in a variety of ways because we are working in the real world, where we will seek to identify not just the key challenges that this court will likely face in its operations, but also offer key solutions based on the lessons learned from the international criminal tribunals that preceded it. Indeed, as history teaches us, the international community makes better progress in the fight against impunity only if we do not keep reinventing the wheel.”

“This conference,” said Professor Clarke, a well-known scholar on issues of international criminal justice in Africa based at the University of Pennsylvania, “also serves as the launch of the African Court Research Initiative – the first academic study dedicated exclusively to evaluating this African Court – will likely make a direct impact on the future work of the court. With the presence of Professor Dr. Vincent Nmehielle – the African Union Legal Counsel – our engagement has the prospect of impacting future policy in Africa and beyond. We hope to set a high bar for future academic studies of the new AU court and its contributions to international law and justice,” he explained.

The public is invited to attend on Friday, March 20, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m., the remainder of the conference will be closed to invited guests only. For additional information, contact Zoraya Ledesma, at or 305.348.7451.

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