On Wednesday, 25 May 2016 the African Foundation for International Law (AFIL) and the African Association of International Law (AAIL) organised a High-level Panel Discussion on the theme Africa and the International Court of Justice (ICJ): 'Seven Decades Relationship, Contributions and Challenges'. Two prominent international law scholars, namely Professor Georges Abi-Saab and Professor John Dugard (and ad hoc Judge at the International Court of Justice)  reviewed the important relationship between the ICJ and Africa in terms of contributions and challenges. This event was hosted by The Hague Institute for Global Justice (THIGJ).

Mr. Stephen J. Rapp, former US Ambassador at large for war crimes issues, gave the welcoming remarks on behalf of THIGJ. This was followed by introductory remarks from His Excellency Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Judge at the International Criminal Court, who also moderated the High-Level Panel. High-Level Panel considered, in particular, the increasing use by the African States of the International Court of Justice for dispute settlement, especially over the last decade. The Panelists addressed the following broad questions: What factors have accounted for a regain of trust by African States in the International Court of Justice considering that African States were the principal users of the International Court of Justice in the last decade? How the African States regained this trust after many years of discomfort? What were the prospects of this relation being maintained in terms of future complementarity and competition between the International Court of Justice and other African regional courts and tribunals? For example, 22 African States have accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, however 34 African States have accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC.

The High-Level Panel also addressed the significance and contribution of the International Court of Justice’s jurisprudence on cases emanating from Africa to the general interpretation of international law, in particular, the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion in landmark cases such as Namibia and Western Sahara. The factors that accounted for the limited acceptance of International Court of Justice’s compulsory jurisdiction by the African States were revisited. Until 1960, Africa was seen as an object rather than a subject. Today this has changed, particularly a few outstanding African Court events of the past half century demonstrated the contributions African states have made by using this path of international law.

By Ms. Jamilla Abdullé

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