This article examines the extent to which the British and French colonial legacies influence the human rights behavior of post-colonial African states. We have examined three areas where the literature suggests different colonial experiences for former British and French colonies: legal systems, formal provisions for judicial independence, and emergency powers. Our findings show very little support that different colonial legacies in those three areas affect the level of state abuse of personal integrity in sub-Saharan Africa. We find no solid evidence, for example, that common law system countries have better human rights behavior than civil code system countries. Nor is there any support for the propositions that former French colonies would have less constitutional provisions for judicial independence and checks against the executive during times of emergency than English colonies. Indeed, contrary to expectations, it is the French-legacy states that have stronger protections for emergency powers, perhaps suggesting recognition of the broad powers of the president in the bequeathed French political system and the need to curtail some of those powers. Likewise, we find little evidence that these elements affect their human rights behavior.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 1065-1097
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.