International and Comparative Law Quarterly

Shorter Articles, Comments and Notes

International Human Rights: Neglect of Perspectives From African Institutions

Rachel Murray*

International human rights law advocates tolerance, inclusivity and the promotion of equality among peoples, nations and individuals across the world. It seems disappointing, therefore, that these standards do not always apply to the discipline of international human rights law itself. Instead there seems to be a hierarchy in the international human rights system. Others have written about such an approach in relation to different types of rights,1 reflecting political power struggles.2 This paper will consider whether African institutions are ‘third generation’ organs and perceived as of less value than others. It will argue that international human rights law has focused primarily on European and Western sources and neglected those from other jurisdictions. It has failed, therefore, to use African institutions, for instance, to provide examples of good practice, relying on them only as examples of what not to do. As Okafor and Agbakwa state, there is evidence of a one-way traffic, with Western scholars giving the impression that they feel they have little to learn from African institutions and their experiences:


* School of Law, University of Bristol. I would like to thank Dave Cowan, David Clarke, Tony Prosser, and Keith Syrett for their helpful comments on this paper.