Conflict and Fragility

Policy briefs

Malian customary justice and international human rights

09 Apr 2018 - 16:16
Source: Mosque of Kani Bonzon, Mali by Marco Bellucci-flickr
Between ideals and needs: is Malian customary justice incompatible with international human rights standards?

Providing access to justice is a fundamental component of any functioning legal system and enabling such access is a state obligation under international human rights law. In the case of Mali, where the state has never been the primary justice provider, customary justice mechanisms are central to the provision of justice for the majority of the population. However, some policy debates juxtapose oversimplified pictures of customary justice systems with the ideals of Western justice systems.

In this Policy Brief it is argued that efforts to improve access to justice should not be driven by assumptions that customary justice systems are incompatible with international human rights standards. These efforts should rather be led by the needs of local communities and individuals and aimed at addressing the challenges faced by customary justice systems.

Author Anca-Elena Ursu presents the following recommendations for policy makers and practitioners who aspire to support customary systems in overcoming their weaknesses and to remedy the profound need for justice in Mali:

  • Look beyond the legalistic framework;
  • Disseminate knowledge about human rights:
  • Increase the social power of women and vulnerable groups.