Symposium on Phil Clark’s ‘Distant Justice’

Thijs B. Bouwknegt (Editor), Patryk Labuda (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientific


Phil Clark’s book 'Distant Justice: The Impact of the International Criminal Court on African politics' comes at an opportune moment. Based on over a decade of research, including repeated visits to the ICC’s first two situations – the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda – Clark provides an in-depth scholarly analysis of the Court’s fifteen years of operations.

We have invited several scholars and practitioners to online discuss Phil Clark’s arguments and conclusions in this online book symposium.

- Phil Clark kicks off the symposium by situating his research within evolving debates about the ICC’s performance over the last fifteen years.
- Owiso Owiso assesses Clark’s handling of the political implications of the ICC’s investigations in Africa. In questioning whether Distant Justice has overstated the ICC’s role in regulating the behavior of state actors, Owiso calls for greater humility in how observers evaluate the ICC’s performance.
- Kamari Maxine Clarke then queries whether Distant Justice prematurely dismisses the relevance of neo-colonialism as an analytical framework. Drawing out several unexplored themes, Clarke suggests how colonialism still matters to debates about the ICC in Africa.
- Next, Ottilia Anna Maunganidze examines the different ways in which the concept of distance can be understood in Distant Justice, before suggesting that Clark’s emphasis on the ICC’s shortcomings should be balanced with a more critical analysis of states’ failure to provide accountability.
- Writing in his personal capacity, Xabier Agirre Aranburu from the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) discusses Clark’s criticisms of the Court’s investigative and hiring practices. Agirre draws attention to various examples of African expertise at the ICC, and notes how the OTP has tried to bridge the problem of distance between Africa and the Court.
- Last but not least, Mark Drumbl explores to what extent Clark’s critique of the ICC’s distance from African societies is an integral feature of international criminal justice as a whole, and what this tells us about prospective plans for reforming the ICC.
- In his response to the five contributors, Phil Clark unpacks their observations and critiques, and reiterates his call for an ambitious re-think of the ICC’s place in the wider system of international criminal justice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOpinio Juris
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • ICC
  • Africa
  • international criminal justice
  • transitional justice


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