NGOs and legitimacy of international criminal justice in Uganda

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In recent years, there have been significant debates about the legitimacy of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in situation countries. Perspectives from the Global South are critical against the hegemonic elements of this regime, perceived as an instrumentalization of global human rights norms and Western imperialism. Yet, current debates about the legitimacy of international criminal justice, have tended to neglect the hegemonic capacities of non-state actors in affected communities. This paper centralises the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Uganda’s contested criminal justice processes as a prism through which to examine these discourses. The paper draws on semi-structured interviews with both domestic and international NGO staff, lawyers and victim representatives, as well as secondary sources. It also benefits from reflections based on my experience as a legal practitioner in Uganda. Drawing on the theory of legitimacy, it illustrates how NGOs perpetrate hegemonic structures of international criminal justice through the approaches that they take, regarding the prosecution of international crimes at the ICC and International Crimes Division(ICD) of Uganda. In turn, this asserts a form of sociological legitimacy of the courts in the eyes of the affected communities. On the other hand, the paper also highlights a limited counter-hegemonic role of some domestic NGOs that prioritize domestic accountability mechanisms. Ultimately, an attention to NGOs as critical actors is essential if we are to sustain the counter-hegemonic debates in international criminal justice. The paper concludes that NGOs are key stakeholders in the future of the international criminal justice project.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Criminal Law – a Counter Hegemonic Project?
EditorsFlorian Jeßberger, Leonie Steinl, Kalika Mehta
PublisherAsser Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789462655515
ISBN (Print)9789462655508, 9789462655539
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2022

Publication series

NameInternational Criminal Justice Series
ISSN (Print)2352-6718
ISSN (Electronic)2352-6726


  • international criminal justice
  • International Criminal Court
  • international crimes
  • Uganda
  • non-governmental organizations
  • legitimacy


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