Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Audie Klotz


Africa, compliance, International Criminal Court, norms, transitional justice

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation analyzes state cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC, or the Court). State cooperation is the precondition for the Court to bring perpetrators of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity to justice. The Court does not have a police force of its own to enforce its arrest warrants and court requests. Consequently, the ICC depends on the cooperation and assistance of states and international organizations to arrest suspects and facilitate the Court’s work in various ways. Through qualitative methods, including case studies, content analysis, and process tracing, I investigate how states support or undermine the Court’s work through mandatory compliance as well as voluntary cooperation.

Based on in-depth case studies of two African ICC states parties—South Africa and Kenya—I develop a new framework to classify states into four types of cooperators (model cooperators, pro forma cooperators, cheap talkers, and non-cooperators) based on whether they engaged in mandatory compliance and/or voluntary cooperation for institution weakening or institution strengthening. While mandatory engagement refers to specific compliance requirements governments take on when they join the Court as states parties, such as complying with court requests, voluntary cooperation refers to support behavior that goes beyond the Rome Statute, such as diplomacy and public statements.

In the case study chapters, I trace South Africa and Kenya’s cooperation behavior longitudinally to describe their shifts from model cooperators to pro-forma and non-cooperators and explain these countries’ cooperation behavior in the al-Bashir and Kenyatta court cases. While South Africa failed to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited the country in June 2015, the Kenyan government cooperated to some extent with the ICC while also undermining the Court regionally and domestically. I complement these case studies with a content analysis of what states say about the Court at the UN to show how discourse about the ICC has developed over time and what states like and dislike about the Court’s work. I contrast this venue with the African Union’s (AU) position on the Court. While more critical of the ICC, the AU’s focus lies on the Court’s charges against sitting African heads of state rather than the overall portfolio of ICC situations.

The dissertation’s findings relate to how states parties cooperate with the ICC and when and why they cooperate. First, I find that states can simultaneously cooperate with the Court while undermining it in other forums. Kenya engaged in a multifaceted strategy that included mandatory cooperation but also diplomacy and statements against the Court. Second, I find that the AU plays an important role as a mediator in the state-ICC relationship. The AU functioned as a forum for ICC-critical African leaders and contributed to the stalling of progress in the al-Bashir case by passing a non-cooperation policy that provided countries with a legal ‘out’ if they did not want to arrest a fellow African leader. Moreover, the organization called repeatedly for the deferral of cases and that sitting heads of state should be immune from prosecution. Third, I find that domestic-level factors help explain cooperation behavior. Most importantly, I argue that governments cooperate with the ICC when their interests are aligned with the Court; cooperation is not forthcoming or is undermined when the interests are misaligned. Moreover, reputation concerns can help explain cooperation decisions.

The dissertation contributes to ongoing debates in International Relations (IR) on global governance, transitional justice norms, and compliance with International Law. The cooperation framework that I introduce expands on existing accounts of state cooperation with the ICC by including a wider array of state behaviors. While existing accounts either focus on mandatory cooperation or on political support for the ICC, I combine these behaviors into one framework. Beyond the ICC, this framework has the potential to travel to other international courts and organizations. Second, the crucial role of the AU in the state-ICC nexus challenges common accounts of Global South countries and the AU as weak actors in the international system. In the court cases against sitting heads of state, the AU’s involvement suggests that a regional organization can counteract a global institution’s work and purpose. Thus, when analyzing compliance, we need to expand our focus beyond domestic-level explanations to include regional actors that may impact compliance and create loyalty conflicts for states parties. The longitudinal analyses reveal that states can shift their cooperation behavior over time. This attests to the value added of in-depth case studies for our understanding of the temporal variation of compliance. It complicates existing compliance studies that analyze compliance through ratifications and domestic implementation of international treaties. These studies represent the compliance behavior of countries at a specific point in time but they cannot tell us about the degree to which a state will honor its legal commitment when called on to fulfill a specific task years or decades after the initial commitment. In addition, the empirical chapters add to the second image and second image reversed traditions in IR. On the one hand, the case studies show that these countries’ domestic politics can impact the functioning of an international organization. On the other hand, they contribute to our understanding of the ICC’s impact on domestic politics in South Africa and Kenya. Lastly, the dissertation attests to the formidable hurdles in prosecuting suspects of mass atrocities when those perpetrators are sitting heads of state. When equipped with the resources and powers of office, sitting leaders can easily circumvent international justice and might even be supported by important allies in their endeavors. This casts doubt on more optimistic accounts that posit an increasing trend toward accountability for all perpetrators.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.