This issue of the Journal appears at the same time as a significant landmark relating to human rights and democracy in Africa is reached – the entry into force of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance on 15 February 2012. The milestone of 15 ratifications was reached five years after the adoption of the Charter in January 2007. As is the case with any treaty, the entry into force of the Democracy Charter becomes meaningful only if its provisions are effectively domesticated and implemented in practice.

By engaging with human rights in the broader context of democracy and the rule of law, three contributions in this issue relate to the importance and potential role of the Democracy Charter. Appiagyei-Atua traces the way in which minority groups, including indigenous peoples, have benefited from the link between democracy and development in the post-colonial African state. Ibrahim evaluates how democracy has been valued in the decade since the Organisation of African Unity was replaced by the Africa Union. Mujuzi links these concerns to the jurisprudence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights related to the rule of law in Africa.

Following its first finding – against Kenya – in March 2011, the African Children’s Rights Committee has become more prominent. For some time, children’s rights have been comparatively high on the agenda of African governments. While focusing on the domestic legal protection of children, the contributions of Odongo and Moyo also underline the role of international human rights law in shaping national agendas, policies, laws and practices.

Although the Journal only exceptionally includes articles dealing with analyses of specific legal systems, Liebenberg’s contribution is a good example of an article in which a specific legal development (the ‘meaningful engagement’ jurisprudence of the South African Constitutional Court) is placed in a wider context and made relevant to a broader audience.

In 2011 and so far in 2012, the judicial scene in Africa has witnessed a number of significant developments. By the time this Journal appears, in July 2012, the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government should in all likelihood have considered the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. This Protocol aims to add a ‘section’ on international criminal justice to the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. In 2011, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted its most meaningful decision to date (‘provisional measures’ ordered against Libya) and much judicial activity has taken place within two regional economic communities, in particular, ECOWAS and EAC. The International Criminal Court remains a thorn in the flesh of some African leaders and a source of conflict within the AU. All these developments, as well as relevant case law, are discussed in a trio of contributions, covering developments in 2011 in respect of the AU and human rights; the regional economic communities; and human rights and international criminal justice in Africa.

Last year, having celebrated 30 years since the adoption of the African Charter, the African human rights family remains in a celebratory mood in 2012 – the year in which the African Commission marks 25 years of existence. The editors of the Journal extend their congratulations and encouragement to the members of the Commission and its Secretariat.

We acknowledge with appreciation and sincerely thank the independent reviewers who gave their time and talents to ensure the consistent quality of the Journal: Horace Adjolohoun, Atangcho Akonumbo; Melhik Bekele; Gina Bekker; David Bilchitz; Lilian Chenwi; Fernand de Varennes; Bonolo Dinokopila; Carina du Toit; Edmund Foley; Balarabe Haruna; Christof Heyns; Dan Kuwali; Cephas Lumina; Koos Malan; Remember Miamingi; Nkatha Murungi; Charles Ngwena; Godwin Odo; Anthony Okorodas; Joe Oloka-Onyango; Marius Pieterse; Ally Possi; Ben Saul; Nahla Valji; Harmen van der Wilt; and Sisay Yeshanew.