Taming Regressive Constitutional Amendments: The African Court as a Continental (Super) Constitutional Court

Accepted for Publication in the International Journal of Constitutional Law (2018/2019), Forthcoming

24 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2018

See all articles by Adem Abebe

Adem Abebe

Centre for Human Rights; International IDEA

Date Written: November 24, 2017

Abstract

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has the required substantive basis to function, and has in fact shown the willingness to operate, as a constitutional court for Africa. The Court has invalidated not only laws, but also a constitutional provision as incompatible with relevant continental and sub-regional standards. The article argues that this extensive power of the African Court has implications for the empowerment of domestic constitutional courts to review the substantive validity of constitutional amendments. In combination with other constitutional and popular mechanisms of control, such an empowerment would constitute an additional veto point to stymie self-serving efforts undermining fundamental constitutional principles, so common in the African context. The express judicial empowerment and regulation of the review of constitutional amendments would allow constitutional designers to define the scope of the power, to identify the enforceable substantive limits, and to establish procedural and decision rules cognizant of the higher level of political consensus underwriting amendments. Counterintuitively, therefore, the recognition of domestic judicial review of constitutional amendments would limit judicial venture into constitutional politics.

Keywords: African Court; Constitutional Amendment; Constitutional Court; Africa

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Abebe, Adem, Taming Regressive Constitutional Amendments: The African Court as a Continental (Super) Constitutional Court (November 24, 2017). Accepted for Publication in the International Journal of Constitutional Law (2018/2019), Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3218957

Adem Abebe (Contact Author)

Centre for Human Rights ( email )

University of Pretoria
Pretoria
South Africa

International IDEA ( email )

Passage 31
The Hague, 2511 AB
Netherlands

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