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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .

The African Human Rights System - Its Laws, Practice, and Institutions
Vincent O. Orlu Nmehielle

The Hague, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law Publications, 2001
443 pp HB 115 ISBN 90-411-1731-8

This book analyses the African system of human rights from the unique perspectives of its laws, practice and the institutions of the system, with an added focus and assessment of the effectiveness of the work of the African Commission on Human Rights. It is carefully pieced together into seven chapters, which is very beneficial as it meticulously knitted together to explain the operation of the African human rights system in a very coherent format.

First, the book introduces the background and history of the human rights project in Africa, detailing the impact of the colonial influences in the region with additional analysis of other regional human rights instruments. Chapter discusses the different constituent parts of the African human rights system which are analysed usefully in terms of the nature of the rights, e.g. civil, political and economic. Chapter three seeks to investigate the institutional structure of the African system for human rights. Chapter four outlines the procedures of the African Commission, examining state reporting procedures, communication procedures and remedy procedures under the Charter. Chapter five seeks to critique the reform of the African human rights system, specifically focusing on the basis for reform by analysing the gaps in the system. It also analyses the debates from a spectrum of viewpoints, finally focusing on the establishment of the African Court of Human and People?s Rights. The author carefully follows this chapter with a focus on the institution of the African Court of Human and People?s Rights, the provisions of the protocol establishing it and its relations with the African Commission. The final chapter is dedicated to the impact of NGOs and the future of the African human rights project.

Particularly positive aspects of the book include the way the author has carefully constructed each of the chapters. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end resulting in a comprehensive review of the African human rights system from a number of different perspectives. This book would appeal to students, academics, human rights practitioners and readers of a general interest in human rights and its development.

The development of the African human rights system is more interesting than the development of other regional human rights instruments due to a number of factors, particularly given that the impact of colonialism on African states has produced the effect that many states are not willing to concede to human rights developments as it is viewed a challenge to sovereignty. Additionally, the African continent has seen war and genocide on a mass scale and the overbearing power of dictatorships. Therefore, this book encapsulates and expands on the lead up to the development of human rights norms, its practice, critiques its current system and provides a basis for further discussion with a look to the future of the human rights project in the African continent. Additionally, it provides a comprehensive reference section in appendices, which allows the reader to access easily the main reference documents referred to in the text.

Noel Mc Guirk, PhD Candidate, School of Law, UU Magee

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