- Published on Monday, 02 July 2012 02:38
- Written by MARC NKWAME in Arusha
- Hits: 1071
WITH the United Nations International Tribunal for Rwanda currently ending its mandate here, few people are aware that Arusha also hosts another pan-African judicial institution; the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights Based at the Mwalimu Nyerere Conservation Centre, in Majengo area of Arusha City, the Court is a continental court established by African countries to ensure protection of human and peoples' rights in Africa.
It complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. At the moment there are efforts to have the AfHPR build its own premises in Tengeru, where the government has given the court land for construction. The current court premises are owned by the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA). The Court was established by virtue of Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, (the Protocol) which was adopted by Member States of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in June 1998. The Protocol came into force on 25 January 2004 after it was ratified by more than 15 countries.
Jean-Pierre Uwanone is the communications officer with AfHPR and explains that to date, only the following twenty six (26) States have ratified the Protocol: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d'Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.
According to the Protocol establishing the African Court, once a State has ratified the Protocol, it has also to make a special declaration accepting the competence of the African Court ratification and allowing its citizens to institute cases directly before the Court. To date, a very few number of countries have made such a declaration. As of June 2012, only five countries had made such a Declaration. Those countries are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, and Tanzania.
The Court has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the (the Charter), the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned. The Court officially started its operations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2006, but in August 2007 it moved to its seat in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania, where the Government provided it with temporary premises pending the construction of a permanent structure.
Between 2006 and 2008, the Court dealt principally with operational and administrative issues, including the development of the structure of the Court's Registry, preparation of its budget and drafting of its Interim Rules of Procedure. In 2008, during the Court's Ninth Ordinary Session, judges of the Court provisionally adopted the Interim Rules of the Court pending consultation with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, based in Banjul, the Gambia in order to harmonize their rules to achieve the purpose of the provisions of the Protocol establishing the Court, which requires that the two institutions must harmonize their respective Rules so as to achieve the intended complementarity between the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
This harmonization process was completed in April 2010 and in June 2010 the Court adopted its final Rules of Court. The Court delivered its first judgment in 2009 following an application dated 11 August 2008 by Mr Michelot Yogogombaye against the Republic of Senegal. The applicant wanted the Court to suspend proceedings instituted by Senegal against Mr HissenHabre, former President of the Republic of Chad, who is in asylum in Senegal.
Pursuant to Article 34 (6) of the Protocol and Rule 33 (f) of the Rules of Court, the Court found that the application was not admissible as the Court had no jurisdiction to hear it since Senegal has not made the Declaration recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court to receive applications submitted directly by individuals or Non-Governmental Organizations against it. As at June 2012, the Court has received 24 applications. It has already finalized 11 cases and rendered decisions thereon. Currently the Court has a certain number of pending cases on its table to examine including one Request for advisory opinion.
The Court is composed of eleven Judges, nationals of Member States of the African Union. 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 are elected, after nomination by their respective States, in their individual capacities from among African jurists of proven integrity and of recognized practical, judicial or academic competence and experience in the field of human rights. The judges are elected for a six year or four year term renewable once.
The judges of the Court elect a President and Vice-President of the Court among themselves who serve a two year term. They can be re-elected only once. The President of the Court resides and works on a full time basis at the seat of the Court, while the other ten (10) judges work on a part-time basis. In the accomplishment of his duties, the President is assisted by a Registrar who performs registry, managerial and administrative functions of the Court.