Since the early nineties, the world is witnessing an unprecedented momentum in the development or regeneration of international instruments and mechanisms to tackle gross violations of human rights. There is a proliferation of international tribunals since the creation of the two ad hoc tribunals respectively in 1993 and 1994. The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols have never been cited as often as in the last decade. The Genocide Convention adopted since 1948 has only been recently applied to its full extent. The 1984 convention against Torture is equally being referred to by judicial bodies quite often.
The genocides and other gross violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda, at a moment where the international community was less divided, certainly helped reinforce the fight against impunity and in the process, foster the revival and development of international humanitarian law. Equally relevant was the new reality of a more and more globalized world, along with the emergence of the doctrine of “devoir d’ingérence” or “moral obligation to interfere”, particularly when human rights protection is at stake.
Africa appears in this particular context as an unfortunate but interesting laboratory. Many of the major conflicts calling for the international community’s attention during the last decade have taken (or are taking) place in Africa. The majority of its population leave in rural areas, mostly without education and let alone access to or understanding of the international legal tools and the intricacies designed to address the very tragedy they go through, when massive violations of human rights are committed. The question of the relevance of the justice being dispensed in Africa to address gross violations of human rights is therefore particularly ripe for consideration.