Indigenous and other traditional or customary justice systems in Africa: report of 10th “Geneva” Forum of Judges & Lawyers

The ICJ has today published a report on customary and informal justice systems, and alternative dispute resolution processes, in the East, Southern and Horn of Africa.

The report is based on discussions at the 10th ICJ “Geneva” Forum of Judges & Lawyers which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2020.

The ICJ’s Geneva-based Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, and its Africa Regional Programme, collaborated with the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) to organize the regional Forum, which was convened under the auspices of the Judiciary of Kenya and in cooperation with the ICJ’s national section ICJ Kenya.

The Forum brought together senior judges, lawyers, and other legal experts and practitioners from around the region, from both formal State justice systems and indigenous and other traditional or customary systems, as well as other alternative dispute resolution processes.

Participants exchanged experience and expertise regarding the opportunities for improving access to justice, and methods for mitigating risks that could arise, through constructive engagement with indigenous and other traditional or customary justice systems in the East, Southern and Horn of Africa. The relevance of UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 and global and regional human rights and rule-of-law standards was also highlighted.

The report summarizing discussions at the regional Forum should be read in conjunction with the separately published and periodically updated ICJ publication Indigenous and other Traditional and Customary Justice Systems: Selected International Sources, which compiles relevant treaty provisions, standards, conclusions and recommendations of UN and other expert bodies, as well as the Report of the 8th ICJ Geneva Forum held in 2017 and the Report of the 9th ICJ Geneva Forum held in 2018. Building on her participation in the 2018 Forum, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples devoted her 2019 report to the UN Human Rights Council to the topic of indigenous justice systems.

The Geneva Forum global and regional consultations, the Special Rapporteur’s report and recommendations, and the ICJ’s own research, global experience and expertise, provide a foundation for the development by the ICJ of further legal, policy and practical guidance to be discussed at a conclusory global ICJ “Geneva” Forum on the topic in late 2020, and published before March 2021.

The Geneva Forum is an annual global meeting of senior judges, lawyers, prosecutors and other legal and United Nations experts, convened by the ICJ through its Geneva-based Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, with the support of the Canton and Republic of Geneva (Switzerland) and other partners.

Each year, participants and the ICJ discuss an issue relevant to the independence and role of judges, lawyers and prosecutors, with a view to developing and disseminating practical guidance for practitioners.




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