African Challenges to the International Criminal Court: An Example of Populism?

In AMINTAPHIL: The Philosophical Foundations of Law and Justice. pp. 255-268 (2020)
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Recent global efforts of the United States and England to withdraw from international institutions, along with recent challenges to human rights courts from Poland and Hungary, have been described as part of a growing global populist backlash against the liberal international order. Several scholars have even identified the recent threat of mass withdrawal of African states from the International Criminal Court (ICC) as part of this global populist backlash. Are the African challenges to the ICC part of a global populist movement developing in Africa? More fundamentally, how are the African challenges to the ICC examples of populism, if at all? In this paper, I show that, while there is considerable overlap between the strategies used by particular African leaders to challenge the ICC and those typically considered populist, as well as a discernible thin populist ideology to sustain them, there is insufficient evidence of a larger anti-ICC populist movement in Africa. Although Africa is not as united against the ICC as the populist narrative suggests, the recent challenges to the Court from Africa pose a significant challenge to the Court, as the institution is still in the early stages of building its legitimacy.

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Renée Nicole Souris
Florida Institute of Technology


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