Backlash against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa

Causes and consequences

Karen Alter, James T. Gathii, Laurence R. Helfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This article discusses three credible attempts by African governments to restrict the jurisdiction of three similarly situated sub-regional courts in response to politically controversial rulings. In West Africa, when the Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) upheld allegations of torture by opposition journalists in Gambia, that country's political leaders sought to restrict the Court's power to review human rights complaints. The other member states ultimately defeated Gambia's proposal. In East Africa, Kenya failed in its efforts to eliminate the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and to remove some of its judges after a decision challenging an election to a sub-regional legislature. However, the member states agreed to restructure the EACJ in ways that have significantly affected the Court's subsequent trajectory. In Southern Africa, after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruled in favour of white farmers in disputes over land seizures, Zimbabwe prevailed upon SADC member states to suspend the Tribunal and strip its power to review complaints from private litigants. Variations in the mobilization efforts of community secretariats, civil society groups and sub-regional parliaments explain why efforts to eliminate the three courts or narrow their jurisdiction were defeated in ECOWAS, scaled back in the EACJ and largely succeeded in the SADC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-328
Number of pages36
JournalEuropean Journal of International Law
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Fingerprint

East Africa
West Africa
Southern Africa
court of justice
cause
Gambia
complaint
community
jurisdiction
seizure
torture
Zimbabwe
journalist
Kenya
parliament
mobilization
civil society
opposition
human rights
farmer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law

Cite this

@article{5a986ec943594a0f80aa9b8b7d7b8ac0,
title = "Backlash against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa: Causes and consequences",
abstract = "This article discusses three credible attempts by African governments to restrict the jurisdiction of three similarly situated sub-regional courts in response to politically controversial rulings. In West Africa, when the Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) upheld allegations of torture by opposition journalists in Gambia, that country's political leaders sought to restrict the Court's power to review human rights complaints. The other member states ultimately defeated Gambia's proposal. In East Africa, Kenya failed in its efforts to eliminate the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and to remove some of its judges after a decision challenging an election to a sub-regional legislature. However, the member states agreed to restructure the EACJ in ways that have significantly affected the Court's subsequent trajectory. In Southern Africa, after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruled in favour of white farmers in disputes over land seizures, Zimbabwe prevailed upon SADC member states to suspend the Tribunal and strip its power to review complaints from private litigants. Variations in the mobilization efforts of community secretariats, civil society groups and sub-regional parliaments explain why efforts to eliminate the three courts or narrow their jurisdiction were defeated in ECOWAS, scaled back in the EACJ and largely succeeded in the SADC.",
author = "Karen Alter and Gathii, {James T.} and Helfer, {Laurence R.}",
year = "2016",
month = "5",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1093/ejil/chw019",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "27",
pages = "293--328",
journal = "European Journal of International Law",
issn = "0938-5428",
publisher = "Oxford University Press",
number = "2",

}

Backlash against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa : Causes and consequences. / Alter, Karen; Gathii, James T.; Helfer, Laurence R.

In: European Journal of International Law, Vol. 27, No. 2, 01.05.2016, p. 293-328.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Backlash against International Courts in West, East and Southern Africa

T2 - Causes and consequences

AU - Alter, Karen

AU - Gathii, James T.

AU - Helfer, Laurence R.

PY - 2016/5/1

Y1 - 2016/5/1

N2 - This article discusses three credible attempts by African governments to restrict the jurisdiction of three similarly situated sub-regional courts in response to politically controversial rulings. In West Africa, when the Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) upheld allegations of torture by opposition journalists in Gambia, that country's political leaders sought to restrict the Court's power to review human rights complaints. The other member states ultimately defeated Gambia's proposal. In East Africa, Kenya failed in its efforts to eliminate the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and to remove some of its judges after a decision challenging an election to a sub-regional legislature. However, the member states agreed to restructure the EACJ in ways that have significantly affected the Court's subsequent trajectory. In Southern Africa, after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruled in favour of white farmers in disputes over land seizures, Zimbabwe prevailed upon SADC member states to suspend the Tribunal and strip its power to review complaints from private litigants. Variations in the mobilization efforts of community secretariats, civil society groups and sub-regional parliaments explain why efforts to eliminate the three courts or narrow their jurisdiction were defeated in ECOWAS, scaled back in the EACJ and largely succeeded in the SADC.

AB - This article discusses three credible attempts by African governments to restrict the jurisdiction of three similarly situated sub-regional courts in response to politically controversial rulings. In West Africa, when the Court of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) upheld allegations of torture by opposition journalists in Gambia, that country's political leaders sought to restrict the Court's power to review human rights complaints. The other member states ultimately defeated Gambia's proposal. In East Africa, Kenya failed in its efforts to eliminate the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and to remove some of its judges after a decision challenging an election to a sub-regional legislature. However, the member states agreed to restructure the EACJ in ways that have significantly affected the Court's subsequent trajectory. In Southern Africa, after the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruled in favour of white farmers in disputes over land seizures, Zimbabwe prevailed upon SADC member states to suspend the Tribunal and strip its power to review complaints from private litigants. Variations in the mobilization efforts of community secretariats, civil society groups and sub-regional parliaments explain why efforts to eliminate the three courts or narrow their jurisdiction were defeated in ECOWAS, scaled back in the EACJ and largely succeeded in the SADC.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84994753679&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84994753679&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1093/ejil/chw019

DO - 10.1093/ejil/chw019

M3 - Article

VL - 27

SP - 293

EP - 328

JO - European Journal of International Law

JF - European Journal of International Law

SN - 0938-5428

IS - 2

ER -