Sub-Regional Courts in Africa: Litigating the Hybrid Right to Freedom of Movement
iCourts Working Paper Series, No. 32
25 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2015 Last revised: 15 Nov 2019
Date Written: September 1, 2015
Human rights attorneys and civil society groups in Africa have recently focused their advocacy efforts on sub-regional courts associated with economic integration communities in East, West and Southern Africa. The East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have received few suits challenging trade restrictions and other barriers to sub-regional integration. Instead, and surprisingly, the courts’ dockets are dominated by complaints alleging violations of international human rights law.
This article offers the first analysis of EACJ, ECOWAS Court and SADC Tribunal decisions concerning the free movement of persons. Freedom of movement is a hybrid legal right. It is protected in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and in other human rights instruments, but it is also a central pillar of all regional integration systems. Free movement case law thus offers a revealing lens through which to examine how African sub-regional courts decide which litigants have access to justice, interpret international legal norms, and fashion the remedies awarded to successful complainants.
Keywords: free movement, international court, Africa, ECOWAS, East African Court of Justice, SADC, human rights, regional integration, African Charter
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