Lunch seminar with Mihreteab Tsighe Taye

A New Phase in the Institutionalization of the East African Court of Justice: From Human Rights to Economic Law Jurisdiction?

This seminar juxtaposes how human rights advocates and business actors contribute to the institutional change of the East African Court of Justice (EACJ). In doing so, this paper considers the identity of litigants and how litigation introduces a dynamic in which institutional change can occur from below. Litigation in the EACJ enabled human rights advocates to actively and repeatedly bring human rights-related cases in the EACJ, even though the EACJ does not have explicit jurisdiction to decide human rights cases. The court’s authoritative interpretation of existing rules, which results in the clarification of the law or practice in question, served as new opportunities for other similar human rights litigants thereby filling the docket of the court with human rights cases. Human rights-related cases in the framework of the rule of law moved the EACJ forward and allowed it to make its distinct imprint in the protection of human rights and the rule of law. This triggered a debate on whether the EACJ is, in fact, an economic court. Much of the debate as to whether the EACJ is an economic court might have thus been perhaps caused by the general absence of economic cases and by the sheer presence of a violation of the rule of law cases. However, the overall debate concerning the jurisdiction of the EACJ today might be affected by its recent economic law decisions. The case-law of the EACJ reflects the interest of parties to cases. When more parties bring cases of human rights matters, the court would resemble a human rights court. When more parties bring economic law cases, the Court would resemble an economic court.

It seems the time has now come for the further evolution of the Court with recent decisions on economic law cases. Today, the EACJ arguably has the ambition to become more than a ‘one-sided-defacto human right-court’. Taking into account the human rights case  law and the recent economic law decisions of the Court, this paper examines whether the EACJ is on the verge of becoming a genuine international Court, significant for human rights and economic integration.

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

Feel free to bring your own lunch bag.