The interplay between the International Criminal Court (ICC) and domestic jurisdictions under the complementarity regime has unveiled statutory and policy limitations. These loopholes became vivid when the ICC faced new complex situations that were not initially envisaged by the drafters of the Rome Statute. On the practical side, the Libyan situation revealed setbacks and shortages in the policy(ies) adopted by the ICC. The first of these setbacks is the apparent lack of a coherent strategy on positive complementarity as invoked by (some) organs of the Court. The second aspect is the Court's adoption of a restrictive interpretation of the constituencies of the complementarity regime, making it extremely difficult even for some willing and able states to exercise their primary duty to prosecute core international crimes.
The unfortunate loose interpretation of ‘unavailability’ that the ICC has developed has led to inaccurate interpretations of the complementarity mechanism in certain situations, such as Libya. Furthermore, the fair trial standards within the admissibility regime should not be exaggerated, but rather invoked to determine whether the state has a bona fide intention to investigate and prosecute these crimes. Contrary to some writers’ interpretation, this is an objective test of intention, not one of relativity or specific result.
The ICC practice has shown a patchy approach that lacks a consistent and clear vision of its relation with domestic jurisdictions. While the ICC has not missed every opportunity to hail its commitment to positive complementarity, the reality is that the Court seems keen on understanding its success through conducting more international prosecutions.