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Unit information: African Human Rights System in 2018/19

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Unit name African Human Rights System
Unit code LAWDM0135
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Murray
Open unit status Not open



Students would benefit from studying this concurrently with the International Law and Human Rights unit.

School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit aims to provide a critical and practical analysis of the African human rights legal system. It will provide students with a detailed knowledge of the human rights organs and bodies, and standards at the African Union, in addition to examining the working practices and jurisprudence of the African Commission and Court on Human and Peoples’ rights.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, a successful student will be able to:

  1. Critically analyse the institutional structure of the African Union with respect to human rights, in particular the African Commission and Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  2. Critically evaluate the mechanisms which the African human rights bodies use to monitor and enforce human rights law on the continent;
  3. State and analyse the key instruments and standards within the African human rights system;
  4. Demonstrate a critical understanding of specific themes relating to the African system including prevention of torture, women’s rights and indigenous peoples.

Students will be able to describe the legal principles accurately, to apply these principles to cases, and to appraise ways in which the law could be reformed. The coursework, a legal brief and a critical essay, aims to test these range of skills.

Teaching details

The contact hours for this unit will be 30 hours. This will usually take the form of: 8 lectures, 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions.

Assessment Details

Summative: 2 x 3000 word essays (50% each) will assess the candidate's ability to research a topic within the scope of this unit. Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

  • Evans and Murray (eds) The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights: The System in Practice 1986-2006, 2nd edition
  • F. Viljoen, International Human Rights Law in Africa, Oxford University Press, 2012
  • M Ssenyonjo, The African Regional human rights system, Brill, 2012
  • R. Murray, The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Law, Hart Publishing, (2000)
  • KO Kufuor, The African human rights system. Origin and Evolution, Palgrave, 2010
  • OC Okafor, The African Human Rights System, Activist Forces and International Institutions, Cambridge University Press, 2007
  • V Nmehielle, The African human rights system. Its law, practice and institutions, Martinus Nijhoff, 2001