Established in Arusha in 2006 with the main purpose of serving as the principal judicial organ of the African Union (AU), the court complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The ACJHR Protocol was adopted at an AU Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on July 1, 2008.
The AFCHPR Protocol and the Statute annexed to it will enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the instruments of ratification by fifteen member states.
The establishment of the AFCHPR is evidence of a broader process involving the intensified judicial enforcement of international law at a global level The AU member states must ensure that the court is popularised and that its establishment benefits the people of Africa and member countries.
It is, however, sad to note that since the adoption of the Court’s Protocol in 1998, only 28 countries out of 54 AU member states have ratified it; and only seven countries have made declarations allowing individuals and NGOs to have direct access it. No other states have ratified the protocol since.
Nevertheless, the development of the AFCHPR is worth contemplating for its potential future impact in the human rights arena on the African continent.
Special efforts are needed by both the court and heads of state to encourage members to ratify the protocol, especially now that a draft is underway to extend the jurisdiction of the Court to include criminal matters such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The AfCHPR should also create a dynamic and pro-active Information and communication office to be able to reach out to wider masses of the continent.
It is a shame that even Arusha, the seat of the Court, hardly knows of the court’s existence! The court should expedite building its permanent home away from the temporary housing in the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) complex since 2007.
Tanzania, as agreed under host country agreement, should fulfil speedily its promise to give the court a permanent home. Thus far, we congratulate the court’s meagre staff of over 60 for their commitment to the lofty objectives of the African protocol on the court’s establishment.