Partners in Complementarity: The Role of Civil Society in the Investigation and Prosecution of International Crimes in South Africa

Authors Hannah Woolaver

ISSN: 1996-2088
Affiliations: Senior Lecturer in Public International Law, University of Cape Town
Source: Acta Juridica, 2016, p. 129 – 157


This paper assesses the role of civil society actors in the pursuit of international criminal justice in South Africa. The paper sets out the range of interventions that have been undertaken by civil society groups on issues of international criminal law in South Africa, and analyses the impact that such interventions have had on the action taken by South African authorities to investigate and prosecute international crimes. Three main types of interventions have been undertaken by South African civil society: campaigns to domesticate international crimes treaties, initiation of domestic litigation, and the submission of amicus curiae briefs. It is demonstrated that through these interventions, civil society has had a significant impact on the domestic legal framework governing the investigation and prosecution of international crimes in South Africa, and has prompted concrete action by State authorities to initiate international criminal proceedings. As such, civil society has played a key role in seeking to ensure that South Africa complies with its domestic and international legal obligations to investigate and prosecute international crimes, including those under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.