Lunch seminar with Misha Plagis

The practice of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights: putting together the fragments of international human rights law?

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court) is the proverbial new kid on the block when it comes to regional human rights courts. As the newest regional human rights court, its jurisprudence adds to a growing body of interpretation of what human rights mean in specific regional contexts. However, it appears to have wielded its power in a way that suggests that human rights law, despite the proliferation of regional judicial bodies and instruments, is in fact not ‘fragmentating’ when it comes to the practice of the African Court. Having decided its first case in 2009, the African Court does not have the same body of work behind it as the older European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). Unlike its regional counterparts, the African Court has the mandate to interpret and apply the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) “and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned.” In doing so, it has often made explicit reference to the jurisprudence of both the ECtHR and the IACtHR, as well as the body of work of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, among others. The question then becomes, how is the African Court changing the fragmented landscape of international human rights law, if at all? 

Thus far little attention has been paid to the actual practice of the African Court in interpreting the African Charter. At the same time, in the discussions on the fragmentation of international law, and in particular human rights law, equally scant attention has been paid to the role of the African Court as one of the newest institutions tasked with interpreting human rights instruments. In order to fill this gap, the research aims to adopt a number of (empirical) tools to uncover what the practice of the Court actually is, and how it has positioned itself (consciously or unconsciously) in the fragmentation of international human rights law debate. One of the proposed tools that will be explored in the seminar is a network analysis of references made by the African Court in its burgeoning jurisprudence, and the provisional results of the data collected thus far. 

All interested are welcome to attend. Registration is not necessary.

Feel free to bring your own lunch bag.