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Since its first judgment on the merits in 2013, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Court or ACtHPR) jurisprudence has bourgeoned. In building this jurisprudence, the African Court has borrowed significantly from the case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This article empirically maps judicial borrowing in the jurisprudence of the African Court and connects this practice to the theoretical framing of the semantic authority of interpretive actors in international law. The article argues that judicial borrowing allows the African Court to borrow the semantic authority of these more established actors in the field of international human rights law. The practice has allowed the Court to boost its interpretive claims. The article posits that the Court is simultaneously internalizing external references: it transforms them into an internal part of its jurisprudence. Therefore, the African Court is transforming what was initially the semantic authority of its homologues in Strasbourg and San José, into assertions of its own semantic authority. This transformation allows the Court to assert itself as the central authority for the interpretation of human rights in Africa. These findings shed new light onto wider scholarly debates on the characteristics of African human rights jurisprudence in the field of international human rights law.
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