Complementarity in Kenya? An Analysis of the Domestic Framework for International Crimes Prosecution

21 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2016 Last revised: 16 Aug 2017

See all articles by Thomas Obel Hansen

Thomas Obel Hansen

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute

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Date Written: April 15, 2016


This paper offers a case study of domestic prosecution of international crimes, focusing on describing attempts made in Kenya to create a legal and institutional framework for such prosecutions. The paper takes the starting point in analyzing Kenya’s International Crimes Act, which domesticates the Rome Statute, and the proposed International and Organised Crimes Division. While the establishment of a specialized division of the Kenyan High Court to prosecute international crimes has been lauded by many as an important step towards promoting accountability for international crimes, the paper argues that there are significant challenges giving effect to the principle of complementarity in Kenya, including lack of investigatory and prosecutorial capacity; challenges relating to the protection of witnesses and victims; and more broadly lack of political will to prosecute the perpetrators of international crimes, particularly those committed in the context of the 2007/8 post-election violence. Importantly, as will be shown in this paper, the debate over creating a national mechanism to prosecute Rome Statute crimes cannot be separated from developments relating to the Kenyan International Criminal Court cases, including the Government’s attempts to end or undermine this process.

Keywords: Kenya, international crimes

Suggested Citation

Hansen, Thomas Obel, Complementarity in Kenya? An Analysis of the Domestic Framework for International Crimes Prosecution (April 15, 2016). Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper No. 16-07, Available at SSRN: or

Thomas Obel Hansen (Contact Author)

Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute ( email )

Shore Road
Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 OQB
Northern Ireland

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