The African Human Rights System, Activist Forces and International Institutions

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In Nigeria, its dictatorial military regimes notwithstanding activist forces have had "a modest but significant" influence on behalf of human rights. Civil society actors have managed to intervene in several important cases: the prosecution of Zamani Lekwot the retired general sentenced to death in with others of the Kataf ethnic group, later pardoned ; a suit brought by two NGOs to repeal the restrictive Newspapers Decree 43; the trade unionist Frank Ovie Kokori v. General Sani Abacha ; the Right to Passport Case in which the Court of Appeals voided the government's seizing without cause of the passport of the head of the Civil Liberties Organization.

And he notes some incremental achievements in such instances as restoring rights of appeal and habeas corpus and even the inconclusive inquiry into the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa. Yet, he concedes, general consciousness and advocacy of human rights remains very low in Nigerian society. South Africa presents a very different story from Nigeria.

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It joined the Organization of African Unity in with the democratic election and only two years later ratified the African Charter. It took more time for the constitution to reflect the African Charter's impact on domestic law and for the judiciary to allow treaty provisions to resolve human rights issues. Okafor looks at more than a dozen cases that demonstrate the influence of the African System in practice, especially thanks to independent, activist judges.

Somewhat surprisingly, given South Africa's robust commitment to democracy, Okafor finds a limited influence and a less developed network of civil society actors than in other countries. Final chapters look briefly at the impact of the African Charter and the African Commission in many other countries and provide a general summary of the influence of other human rights institutions.

regional international law

Further study is needed of human rights in all fifty-five African states. Okafor has not sought to show the direct contributions by international human rights systems which, according to current literature, appear to be minimal. Besides the extensive accounts of the large and wealthy nations of Nigeria and South Africa, Okafor briefly examines other positive outcomes in several African Union member states.


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Though modest, these gains may bode well for further improvement across the continent. Similarly, Okafor's intervention is also an early, promising step toward a better understanding of human rights on the continent. Project MUSE promotes the creation and dissemination of essential humanities and social science resources through collaboration with libraries, publishers, and scholars worldwide. Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves.

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  • The case was filed before the Court for human rights violations pursuant to Article 3 of the Supplementary Protocol of the Court. The Nigerian government lodged a preliminary objection based on three grounds; that the Applicants had not established a cause of action; that the Applicants had no locus standi , and that the Court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.

    The Court was urged to dismiss and strike out the case for lack of merit.

    In , in Mani v. Emphasis my own. In a decision that drew from instruments and decisions from international criminal law; international human rights law; African, Council of Europe and Inter-American regional human rights instruments; the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and Protocol on the ECCJ, and Nigerien domestic law, the ECCJ demonstrated an innovative interpretive approach to both the crime of slavery, and its particular manifestation for women.

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