Universal Rights, Local Remedies: Implementing Human Rights in the Legal Systems of Africa

Versions in English, French and Arabic,
Edited by Abdullahi Ahmed Na Na‘im (INTERIGHTS, AFRONET and GTZ, 1999)

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Africa’s rich diversity can be daunting to activists, policy makers, academics and all others interested in it. The continent is, therefore, mostly thought about and portrayed in national, sub-regional, post-colonial or linguistic pigeonholes, which inhibit any coherent understanding of the creative responses to the all too human experiences of its peoples. Universal Rights, Local Remedies is a pioneering attempt to introduce activists, advocates, policy makers, judges, administrators and other users of the legal process around Africa, to a general theoretical and strategic framework for understanding, applying and implementing international human rights norms in the diverse legal systems of Africa. In so doing, it mediates between the continent’s multi-faceted diversity on the one hand and the similarity of the experiences of its peoples with colonialism and its aftermath on the other.

From these polarities, it distils a methodology to overcome the traditional limitations, particularly those of language and legal tradition, associated with understanding the dynamics of the law in African countries. At once speculative, pragmatic, and constructive, this book describes and analyses the accomplishments, constraints and limitations of human rights law in Africa as well as its transformative capacities. Far from claiming to be definitive or exhaustive, the papers published here are simply an attempt to place the understanding of human rights law and the legal process in various African countries within the broader context of struggles for human dignity, justice and wellbeing everywhere.

About the Author
Abdullahi Ahmed Na Na‘im is Professor of Law and Fellow of the Law and Religion Programme at Emory University, Atlanta, USA. Professer An-Na’im is a specialist in Islamic law and an expert in the study of human rights across cultures. His published works include: Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights and International Law (Syracuse University Press, 1990) and, as editor, Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives: Quest for Consensus (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992).

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