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Research Support Guide for Law Postgraduate Students and Academic Staff

Research support assistance and useful library resources for Postgraduate students and Academic Staff

African Legal Information Institute

 

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AfricanLII liberates public legal information in Africa.

AfricanLII is a programme of the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town. 

They help individuals, organizations, and governments build and maintain sustainable free access to law portals, and reach the people of Africa and beyond.  

They convene a network of 16 African LIIs - a collaborative group of organizations and individuals in Africa, dedicated to free access to law on our continent. 

Free Access to Law, or LII, websites are indispensable sources of legal information for the justice sector and citizens of the countries LIIs serve. 

Citator. Summariser. Classifier.

To access the Legal Citator, click on the following link: https://citator.africanlii.org/

Citator

A Citator is a tool which allows you to track the history of your case and the treatment of your case by subsequent courts. Citators allow you to determine if your case is still good law and it acts as a research tool allowing you to find other cases (and other secondary materials) which cited your case. Read more about this invaluable legal research tool at UWash.
The Citator application automatically extracts references to other cases from the body of a judgment. It does this by looking for patterns in the text that look like a case reference. The AfricanLII citator looks up references to case names, case numbers and case citations, thus being able to overcome the difficulties presented by the sporadic and unreliable law reporting practices of many African countries. We are then able to match up these extracted citations with cases in our database, and external URLs were available to us, to provide links to cases referred to and noter uppers.
Summarizer Application

LIIs have accumulated large collections of judgments, which are often presented in non-edited form. Users have asked us time and again to provide short summaries and assist them to determine whether or not a precedent is applicable to their matter.
The Summarizer application automatically summarizes judgments to allow users to quickly determine whether or not a case is of interest to them when searching.
The summarizer application works by extracting key phrases from the document and also using Artificial Intelligence to look for sentences in the judgment that cover the key topics in the judgment.

Classification Application

 

Classifying documents into a taxonomy can make the search easier by:

  • Allowing users to filter search results by topic.
  • Allowing users to subscribe to updates from a particular topic
  • Being used along with the summarizer to help users determine whether or not a judgment is of interest at a glance

Find the case relationships that you're looking for

This page describes in detail how to use the Citator to find the case-relationships that you are looking for. If you would like a quick how-to, we recommend first watching the video.
First, you should decide whether you are looking for a paticular case that you know the name or citation for, or whether you are looking for case law on a particular topic.

  • If you already know the name or medium neutral citation of a case that you are looking for, then select the "CASE NAME" or "MNC" tickbox option on the home page. Then enter the case name, or MNC, into the search box.
  • If you are looking for case law on a topic, choose the "KEYWORD" checkbox. Note that this checkbox is selected by default.
 

Next, you may optionally add filtering by year and/or by jurisdiction.

  • In order to filter by year, select the earliest year that you would like results for in the "FROM" year dropdown. Select the latest year that you would like results for in the "TO" year dropdown.
  • In order to filter by jurisdiction, select the jurisdictions that you would like results for in the "AFRICAN JURISDICTION" dropdown box. You can select one or many jurisdictions at once. You can also select all jurisdictions within a region by choosing a region checkbox. Once you have selected the regions that you would like to receive results for, click on "OKAY". Note that, by default, if you do not select any jurisdictions, then you will receive results from all jurisdictions in our database.

Next, click on "Search"

You will now be on the results page. At the top of the results page, you will see the same search bar and filters as before. If you would like to perform a new search, you can do so from here, without having to navigate back to the home page.
Below the search bar and filters, you will see your case results. Note that you can scroll down through these results by hovering over the results and using the mouse wheel.
The top of each result box will contain the following information:

  • The name of the case
  • Metadata, including the year that the case was decided in, the jurisdiction and court that the case was decided in, and the medium neutral citation.

Below the metadata, you will see an automatically generated flynote. The flynote consists of two components:

  • Key phrases. These are words and phrases that have occurred frequently in the judgment and will give you an indication of what topics the case covers.
  • Key sentences. These are sentences that cover the key topics of the judgment. They are selected using a machine learning algorithm that looks for sentences that are most representative of the topics in the judgment. This is our first iteration of this algorithm, and we expect it's usefulness to grow significantly over time, but already they should be able to provide some guidance into what the case is about. Once the sentences are chosen by the algorithm, they are shown as they appeared in the judgment.


Below the flynote, you may see a button reading "Show citations". This will appear if our citator has found references to other cases inside the judgment (cases referred to), or if the citator has found a reference to this judgment in another decision (referred to in). This is a beta release of the citator algorithm. Over time, it will be able to more accurately identify all citations in a judgment. Click on "show citations" to view that cases referred to and referred to in.
Two buttons appear next to "show citations":

  • "View on Graph": This button will provide a visual representation of the citations to and from this judgment. This is explained further below.
  • "View full case": This button will open up the full judgment in a new tab, shown at the respective Legal Information Institute website.
 

View on graph

Click on "view on graph". You will see a graph appear in the window to the right of the case results. This graph represents our case, which has a circle around it, and the cases that are related to our case. The arrows point from the earlier judgment to the later one that cited it. Put differently, they show the direction of movement of the precedent. The size of the circles represents how influential that decision has been. Click on a circle to see which case it represents. You can also re-center the whole graph on this case by clicking "view on graph" after selecting a decision on the graph.

We can further increase the depth of the graph to show more distantly related judgments. Finally, we can highlight the cases on the graph, so that cases that were heard in the same court are shown in the same colour.

The Human Rights Law Index is a collection of international treaties and case law from African courts on topics relating to human rights. The case selection aims to provide a snapshot of human rights law in a country, as well as within the African Union. The index currently covers over 1000 documents.

Get started with  Human Rights Law Index and select which jurisdiction you're interested in or click on the following link: https://bit.ly/3aosg7X

The Commercial Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from African countries on topics relating to commercial legal practice. The collection aims to provide a snapshot of commercial legal practice in a country, rather than present solely traditionally "reportable" cases. The index currently covers 400 judgments from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.

Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by clicking on the following link:  https://africanlii.org/commercial

The Environmental Case Law Index is a collection of judgments from 10 African countries on topics relating to environmental law, both substantive and procedural. The collection focuses on cases where an environmental interest interacts with governmental or private interests.

Get started on finding judgments that are relevant to you by clicking on the following link:  https://africanlii.org/environmental

Gazettes.Africa

The largest digital collection of free African Gazettes.

23454 gazettes and growing daily.

 
Laws.Africa logo
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Gazettes.Africa is a project by Laws.Africa and AfricanLII.

National and International Thesis and DissertationsRepository

Laws of South Africa

The Laws of South Africa is a project by the University of Pretoria to make available the South African Consolidated Legislation, including historical versions of Acts.

Access them via the following link: http://www.lawsofsouthafrica.up.ac.za/

SAFLII

The Southern African Legal Information Institute is the greatest resource of South African cases and legislation. Their coverage ranges from tribunal decisions to Constitutional Court cases. They also have a large range of legislation and a few journals as well.

Open By-laws

This database contains by-laws for the different municipalities in South Africa. It is a community project so it is constantly updated.

Access is via the following link: https://openbylaws.org.za/

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