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African Human Rights Law Journal

versión On-line ISSN 1996-2096
versión impresa ISSN 1609-073X


ORAGO, Nicholas Wasonga. The 2010 Kenyan Constitution and the hierarchical place of international law in the Kenyan domestic legal system: A comparative perspective. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2013, vol.13, n.2, pp.415-440. ISSN 1996-2096.

The prominent use of international human rights law in a state's domestic legal system depends on the hierarchical place occupied by international law in general, and international human rights law in particular, among the sources of law in that particular legal system. Two systems of receipt of international law in the domestic legal systems have been used by different states: monism, which looks to directly incorporate ratified international law treaties in a state's domestic legal system; and dualism, which entails the transformation of international law into the domestic legal system through the domestication of ratified international law treaties by means of the enactment of parliamentary legislation. Kenya, as a Commonwealth country, has always primarily followed a dualist approach which requires that domesticating legislation be enacted by parliament for ratified international law treaties to have application in the domestic legal system. However, with the promulgation of the new Constitution in August 2010, international law has been given a more prominent role in the domestic legal system through the inclusion in the Constitution of a provision directly incorporating ratified treaty law into the Kenyan legal system as a legitimate source of law. This article is primarily focused on analysing the hierarchical place of international law, specifically international human rights treaty law, in the Kenyan domestic legal system in the context of the new constitutional dispensation. It recommends that in order for international human rights law to have a prominent place in the governance of the country, article 2(6) of the Constitution should be interpreted progressively so as to give international human rights law norms an infra-constitutional but a supra-legal status in the domestic legal system. In this way, international human rights law will act as a bulwark against recession to totalitarian rule, as well as safeguard the democratic and fundamental rights protection gains that were won in the struggle for constitutional change.

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