Mon. Jul 22nd, 2019

DID YOU KNOW? THE AFRICAN COURT ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS

By Hussaini Umar

The African Court on Human and Peoples ‘Rights (the Court) is a regional court created by African countries to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights, freedoms and duties in Africa. It complements and strengthens the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 

The Court was established under Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples ‘Rights establishing an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol).

In September 1995, a draft document on the African Court on Human Rights was prepared at the conclusion of an expert meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, by the OAU Secretariat. collaboration with the African Commission and the International Commission of Jurists.

 

After a series of meetings, the draft Protocol had been adopted in December 1997 by the OAU Conference of Ministers of Justice / Attorneys General.

On June 10, 1998, the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, adopted the Protocol to the African Charter establishing the African Court. The Protocol entered into force on January 25, 2004, after being ratified by more than 15 countries.

 

To date, only thirty (30) States have ratified the Protocol. These are Algeria, B é Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya , Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and the Republic of Cameroon.

 

The Protocol Establishing the African Court provides that once a State has ratified the Protocol, it must also make a special declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the African Court to allow citizens to seize the Court directly. To date only nine countries have made such a declaration. These countries are Benin, Burkina Faso,  Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania and Tunisia .

 

The Court has jurisdiction to hear all cases and disputes before it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter), the Protocol and any other instrument relevant human rights treaty ratified by the States concerned.

 

The Court is composed of eleven judges, nationals of African Union Member States. It follows from the AU Guidelines on the Nomination and Election of Candidates for Judgeship that the Court has the following number of judges from each region: East (2), North (2), Central (2) , West (3) and South (2). The Court can not include two judges of the same nationality.

 

The first judges of the Court were elected in January 2006, in Khartoum, Sudan. They were sworn in before the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on 2 July 2006 in Banjul, The Gambia. The judges of the Court shall be elected, after their appointment by their respective States, in a personal capacity among African jurists of very high moral standing, and recognized judicial or academic competence and experience in the field of human rights.

 

Judges are elected for a period of six or four years and are eligible for re-election only once. The judges of the Court elect from among themselves a president and a vice-president of the Court for a term of two years. They can only be re-elected once. The President of the Court holds office on a full-time basis and resides at the seat of the Court, while the other ten (10) Judges work part-time. In the exercise of his functions, the President is assisted by a clerk who performs the functions of administrative management of the Registry of the Court.

 

The Court officially started its activities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2006, but in August 2007, it relocated to its headquarters in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, where the Government of the Republic provided temporary premises pending the construction of a permanent structure. Between 2006 and 2008, the Court dealt mainly with operational and administrative matters, including the development of the Court Registry’s structure, the preparation of its budget and the drafting of its provisional rules of procedure. In 2008, at the Ninth Ordinary Session of the Court, the judges of the Court provisionally adopted these provisional Rules of Procedure pending consultation with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, based in Banjul, The Gambia, in order to to harmonize the rules of procedure of these two institutions in order to fulfill the purpose of the provisions of the Protocol establishing the Court. 

 

This Protocol requires the two institutions to harmonize their respective rules of procedure in order to achieve the desired complementarily between the African Court on Human and Peoples ‘Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This harmonization process came to an end in April 2010 and in June 2010, the Court adopted the final Rules of Court. This Protocol requires the two institutions to harmonize their respective rules of procedure in order to achieve the desired complementarity between the African Court on Human and Peoples ‘Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 

 

This harmonization process came to an end in April 2010 and in June 2010, the Court adopted the final Rules of Court. This Protocol requires the two institutions to harmonize their respective rules of procedure in order to achieve the desired complementarily between the African Court on Human and Peoples ‘Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This harmonization process came to an end in April 2010 and in June 2010, the Court adopted the final Rules of Court.

 

Under the Protocol (Article 5) and the Rules of Procedure of the Court (Article 33), the Court may receive complaints and / or petitions submitted to it by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights or by States Parties to the Protocol or by African intergovernmental organizations. Non-governmental organizations enjoying observer status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and individuals from States that have made a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court may also apply directly to the Court.

 

The Court rendered its first judgment in 2009 following a request dated 11 August 2008 lodged by Mr Michelot Yogogombaye against the Republic of Senegal. 

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