Human Rights, the Rule of Law, and the East African Court of Justice: Lawyers and the Emergence of a Weak Regional Field

Document Type


Publication Date



This article represents a first systematic attempt to trace the trajectory that follows the professionalization of a group of East African lawyers committed to the cause of a regional International Court (IC) inspired by the rule of law and human rights. It demonstrates how a group of lawyers participated in the struggle to define law and to construct the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and build the field of human rights. Lawyers who participated in the creation of the EACJ became “experts” in regional law. This expertise was legitimised not only by the political and social capital deriving from their participation in the drafting of the EAC Treaty, as representatives of states or civil society groups, but also by the capital of knowledge and technical skill accumulated in the course of bringing forth and litigating cases in both the national and transnational spaces. Upon entering the regional IC, as either judges or litigators, these agents became interpreters of the EAC Treaty inspired by the respect for the rule of law and human rights.

The article reports on data from field research in East Africa. This article starts with a discussion of the role of lawyers and civil society groups in the formation of the EACJ before analysing efforts to extend the jurisdiction of the EACJ to include human rights. It then examines the EACJ judges’ off-the-bench efforts at judicial empowerment before looking at how lawyers introduced their litigation experience from the national level to the EACJ. Finally, this article discusses the rule of law and human rights-related case law of the EACJ.

Publication Title

Temple International and Comparative Law Journal

First Page


Last Page



This record does not contain full text. If available, click on the "DOI" link to see where the full text of the item is located. If you are a UB student, or faculty or staff member and unable to access the full text at the link, try searching for the item in Everything Search ( If not available, request via Delivery+ (

This document is currently not available here.