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Human Rights and Traditional Justice Systems in Africa

image of Human Rights and Traditional Justice Systems in Africa
Human rights issues relating to traditional justice systems in Africa have rarely been addressed in detail. This publication defines the nature and characteristics of traditional justice systems, including issues related to jurisdiction, community involvement, composition, and a primary focus on restorative justice. It addresses how traditional justice has been reinforced by cultural and traditional values, proximity to the people and a lack of access to formal courts. Traditional justice systems also have human rights concerns which need to be monitored. Issues relating to fair trial, ill treatment or punishment, the right to life, freedom of religion or belief, sorcery and witchcraft, the prohibition of discrimination and the rights of the child, are all addressed with reference to human rights standards, norms and jurisprudence. This publication addresses programmatic strategies for engagement, including state recognition and legal reform, limitations of jurisdiction, protection of women’s rights, human rights education and training, the empowerment of civil society and technical assistance. This publication focuses on traditional justice systems which frequently are the preferred and, in some cases, the only mechanism for the settlement of disputes in a many parts of Africa.

English Arabic

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Nature and characteristics of traditional justice systems

Unique features set traditional justice systems apart from formal courts. Community leaders as decision makers, public participation by community members and proceedings that aim at reconciliation and maintaining harmony are among the characteristics of traditional justice systems. Despite the cultural, historical and political differences of traditional justice systems, common themes do emerge. Perhaps the most important observation is the widespread use of these forums in Africa and the central role they play in dispute resolution.

English Arabic

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