Open Lecture by Professor Kevin Jon Heller: The Case for "Radical Complementarity" at the ICC

In March 2015, Simone Gbagbo, the former First Lady of Côte d’Ivoire, was convicted of various crimes in a Côte d’Ivorian court and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Despite her conviction and sentence, however, the Appeals Chamber has held that her case is admissible before the International Criminal Court. This decision is very important when it comes to the application of the principle of complementarity at the ICC.

"Substantially the same conduct" basis

The national proceeding was not based on “substantially the same conduct” as the international one.  Whereas the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP/ICC) intended to prosecute Gbagbo for the crimes against humanity of murder, rape, other inhumane acts, and persecution, the Côte d’Ivorian court convicted her for the ordinary domestic crimes of disturbing the peace, organising armed gangs, and undermining state security. This presentation will argue that the Appeals Chamber’s decision in Simone Gbagbo’s case is inconsistent with the principle of complementarity – and that, in general, the ICC has used the principle to impose structural limits on national proceedings that are inconsistent with the Rome Statute and counterproductive in practice.

Radical complementarity

Professor Heller defends ‘radical complementarity’: the idea that as long as a state is making a genuine effort to bring a suspect to justice, the ICC should find his or her case inadmissible regardless of the prosecutorial strategy the state pursues, regardless of the conduct the state investigates, and regardless of the crimes the state charges.


The presentation will last for about 40 minutes and will be followed by Q&A session.

For any questions regarding this open lecture, please contact Gentian Zyberi

Published Jan. 15, 2016 3:58 PM - Last modified Jan. 19, 2016 12:59 PM