Research Handbook on International Human Rights Law
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Research Handbook on International Human Rights Law

Edited by Sarah Joseph and Adam McBeth

This innovative and timely Handbook brings together the work of 25 leading human rights scholars from all over the world to consider a broad range of human rights topics.
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Chapter 15: African Human Rights Law in Theory and Practice

Magnus Killander


Magnus Killander 1 Introduction Human rights law is developed through the findings of national and international institutions and courts. National courts, human rights commissions, regional and global treaty bodies and courts make reference to each other in reports and judgments in the continuous development of the law of human rights. The African perspective, as developed by African courts, national human rights institutions, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘African Commission’) and so forth, is often forgotten in this exchange of ideas.1 It is sometimes argued that human rights have been imposed on the rest of the world by Western countries. To rebut this argument, the first part of this chapter considers the history of human rights discourse in Africa and its role in the struggle against colonialism. Since independence many regional human rights instruments have been adopted, often as a response to developments in the global arena. The second part of the chapter examines this regionalization of universal human rights norms and also takes note of unique features of the African normative human rights framework and areas where Africa has taken the lead in developing an international framework. The section explores to what extent the African Union (‘AU’) and its predecessor the Organization of African Unity (‘OAU’) have responded to African challenges in devising the African regional human rights system and how the often vague provisions of the main regional human rights treaty, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (‘ACHPR’ or ‘the Charter’),2 have been...

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