[ICL-TCL training] Empowering national judges and prosecutors from West Africa

Published 5 July 2024

Participants of the ICL-TCL training at the Asser Institute, 2024. Photo: Hilko Visser 

National judges and prosecutors from West Africa have arrived in The Hague for the 7th edition of our specialised training programme on international criminal law (ICL) and transnational criminal law (TCL). Co-organised by the Asser Institute, Antonio Cassese Initiative, and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, the course aims to strengthen domestic legal capacities in French-speaking African countries.  

In the past forty years, the international criminal justice system has witnessed significant progress with the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and several ad hoc international criminal tribunals, which prosecute those responsible for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and other atrocities and serious humanitarian violations that threaten the international community. 

Nevertheless, the primary responsibility assigned by international law for the prosecution and prevention of international crimes remains with states. Therefore, to combat impunity, provide access to justice for victims, prevent crimes, and promote the rule of law, the role of national prosecutors and judges is fundamental. 

Domestic challenges 

Applying international criminal law at the national level, however, is often a complex endeavour. International criminal law is a relatively young discipline in the global legal field. 

National investigators often face difficulties when working on cases involving crimes of international nature. These crimes take place in remote areas, entail large-scale atrocities with a nexus of different perpetrators and they often involve a very complicated evidence-collection process. Moreover, crimes may involve persons who are still occupying high-level governmental or military functions, which increases the difficulty for judges to guarantee the independence of their institution in such a context.  

Empowering national judges & prosecutors

In the context of these challenges, the high-level training taught in French aims to empower judges and prosecutors from French-speaking African countries to deal with international and transnational crimes and protect human rights. Furthermore, the course hopes to ensure effective cooperation with the ICC and other criminal tribunals and increase cooperation among national judiciaries. 

The programme is primarily targeted towards magistrates from countries grappling with fragile or weak judicial sectors, as well as ICC situation countries. In the past years, we have received participants from Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Togo 

The ICL-TCL training features many speakers from international courts and tribunals in The Hague and several academic and professional institutions and organisations focusing on ICL and TCL. 

This project is led by Dr Marta Bo, senior researcher at the Asser Institute. Marta is part of the Asser Institute research strand 'In the public interest: accountability of the state and the prosecution of crimes' and the strand ‘Regulation in the public interest: Disruptive technologies in peace and security’. 

Marta's research focuses on emerging military technologies, the conduct of hostilities, war crimes, disarmament and criminalisation.  

Read more  
See our past trainings under this long-term capacity-building project for judiciaries in international and transnational criminal law (ICL and TCL) 

Prosecuting international crimes in Africa: Strengthening legal capacities  

On July 3 2023, a group of 25 judges and public prosecutors from French-speaking African countries gathered at the Asser Institute for the 6th edition of the training programme. Read more. 

New training to boost capacity in tackling international crimes 

A new training programme aims to bolster Colombia's ability to prosecute international crimes like war crimes and crimes against humanity. The initiative hopes to strengthen the rule of law and combat impunity, contributing to peace and justice in Colombia and beyond. Read more.  

Dr Marta Bo LL.M.