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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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Programmatic strategies

States should consider recognizing traditional justice systems and incorporating them into their legal framework to improve compliance with human rights. Whether doing so will improve the legal system is, nevertheless, a topic of debate, with some arguing that integrating traditional justice systems into the legal framework would undermine the voluntary nature of the traditional process, defeat the concept of social consensus and public participation, and create the risk that decisions would be overturned on appeal due to the lack of strict procedural rule in traditional forums, according to this argument.

English Arabic

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