Building on our enormously successful Africa legal programme in which the BHRC, together with the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) produced a Human Rights Manual and Sourcebook for Africa and CD-Rom. The Manual and CD-Rom have thus far been distributed in Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The launch of the joint BHRC/BICCL Human Rights Manual and Sourcebook for Africa, took place in the House of Lords in early February 2006. The project was funded by the European Commission, the International Bar Association and the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and the launch had provided a forum to thank them formally for their support.

The Manual provided an introduction to international human rights law and principles, targeted at African lawyers practicing in Africa. It had an in-depth focus on the death penalty, and functioned as a sourcebook, with details of key case-law. The accompanying CD-Rom contained the full text of relevant cases. The Manual also provided an overview of the legislation and case-law of thirteen target countries within Commonwealth Africa (Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It also contained notes on the human rights situation in practice in those countries. 13 national coordinators were involved in the project, and their work was invaluable. Gathering information involved, for example, visiting prisons to count the number of people on death row, so as to produce accurate statistics.

In addition to the Manual, BHRC and BIICL had jointly coordinated training for Commonwealth lawyers, creating a network of over 200 lawyers working on human rights issues. Additional funding is currently being sought to enter a second phase of the project, including further training, test case litigation in international courts, and the production of information leaflets.

All the objectives for this project were met and included:

  • To compile relevant legal materials on the death penalty in each of the 13 countries into one publication (Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe);
  • To strengthen knowledge and awareness regarding the application of the death penalty among legal professionals (defence lawyers, prosecutors, judges, NGOs, Ministries of Justice and other departments);
  • To strengthen networks of lawyers representing people on death row or working within the criminal justice system; and
  • To strengthen human rights values within the legal system.

In Africa, the Committee is now engaged in a joint initiative with the Attorney General Bar Council, FCO, DIFID to establish a Pan-African Lawyers Website, strengthen standards of professional bodies, and provide comprehensive training programmes for the judiciary and police in an effort to stamp out unlawful practices and abuse. The work of Andrew Hall QC and his team have made an enduring contribution to good governance and respect for the rule of law throughout the continent.