The rule of law in Africa relies on effective access to the letter of the law. The African Legal Information Institute, AfricanLII, is proud to launch the beta version of a first-of-it’s-kind Pan-African automated legal citator and summarizer for African caselaw – the Citator.
The Citator is software that automatically generates summaries of cases, and tells users if a case has been overruled or upheld, and shows how often the case has been cited.
AfrcianLII is a programme based at the DGRU, University of Cape Town (https://www.africanlii.org/), and developed this innovative offering with its partner Legal Information Institutes throughout Africa. The Citator application directly supports the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16, which seeks to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. The rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing, making it essential for sustainable development at the national and international level. Yet, the rule of law is hardly achievable if one does not have access to the law of the land, and if justice sector stakeholders are not trained and equipped to gather, critically analyse, and provide feedback on public policy and law.
“The development of the Citator application significantly enhances the ability of African and foreign jurists, government and private lawyers, academics, judges, magistrates to research, use and develop African law.” said AfricanLII project leader Mariya Badeva – Bright.
“By boosting African legal research capacity, the Citator application opens up opportunities for enhancing access to justice as judges, magistrates and lawyers will now be able to access and apply precedent in legal drafting easily. Modern legal systems, with transparent and predictable adjudication processes, are fundamental to regional and foreign investment, economic development and the rule of law.” said Badeva – Bright.
The Citator has been developed to further serve the needs of our users across the continent by providing a way to determine which judgments a case has cited, and which later judgments have referenced a given case. Today, we officially launch a beta version of the Citator.
By providing a mapping of the thousands of links that connect the continent’s jurisprudence, we have begun extending our offering from availability of legal source materials, towards effective access to legal information. An effective, inter and intra jurisdictional citator for Africa promises to provide deeper insights into the development of the common law on the African continent. Our visual interface, in particular, provides for the first time a means to track how courts have analysed, discussed, and imported principles of law from the continent and more broadly.
Included in the Citator are the first automated case summarizer for African jurisprudence. “Using this technology, we will be able to provide short summaries for every judgment that we have on our records. This will go a long way towards making the vast body of case law more searchable, accessible, and tractable. We have “written” 168 000 summaries using our software. This is a significant achievement,” said Neil du Toit, the computer scientist behind the software.
“Our Citator Application has indexed over 200 000 documents, producing more than 300 000 citations. Of these, more than 10 000 have been linked to cases in our database. We expect these numbers to grow significantly over time as we further improve the accuracy of our algorithms, and as more case law is uploaded onto our platform by our partner Legal Information Institutes.”
AfrcianLII hopes that these two tools will go far towards realising the goal of effective access to justice on the continent, and ultimately, towards upholding the rule of law.
AfricanLII and the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the University of Cape Town thank USAID, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, OSISA and the Indigo Trust for the financial support that made this development possible.
For more information, please visit the AfricanLII contact page or contact:
Neil du Toit