This volume is dedicated to a topic that has dominated a large part of my professional life and that is close to my heart: justice, notably criminal justice, in Africa and for all Africans. Of course, criminal justice and international criminal justice are not exclusively African goals and values. They are universal in scope and nature. Yet, there is no denying that Africa so far has played a central role in the development of international criminal law. One of the ad hoc tribunals was set in place in response to the Rwandan atrocities, the work of the International Criminal Court (ICC) so far has been devoted to African situations and there is no other continent with more hybrid and special criminal law bodies than the African continent – The Special Court for Sierra Leone, the International Crimes Division of Uganda's High Court and the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal.
Practice so far demonstrates that it is far from easy to actually hold alleged perpetrators of international crimes accountable. Gathering adequate evidence for crimes under investigation is oft en a formidable task. The various international tribunals seem increasingly mired in politics, especially where it concerns cases against Heads of State or other high-ranking government officials. If one adds that some of the most powerful and populous nations still refuse to participate in the battle against impunity, then one might be tempted to agree with pessimists who believe there is no real future for international criminal justice.
I am not such a pessimist. I do believe that there is a future for international criminal law. Criminal justice has only been on the international political agenda for two decades or so; the ICC has only been operational for a little over a decade. Creating an effective international criminal law system requires time. In fact, if one looks at the overall achievements of the last two decades or so, and places these in a broader historical perspective, one may conclude that quite impressive progress has been made. In the early 1990s the creation of an international criminal court seemed like a dream that was unlikely to become reality in the short term, if ever. There is a growing list of persons convicted before international tribunals and hybrid courts. The culture of silence in which sexual and gender based crimes are oft en shrouded is being challenged by activists, prosecutors and others.