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African Court Calls for Support and Cooperation

By  | 3 December 2013 at 20:42 | 863 views

The African Court for Human and Peoples Rights based in Arusha,Tanzania has
called for support and cooperation from member states of the AU so as to enable
it carry out its mandate effectively.

The Court which is a creation of the African Union is currently faced with
several challenges that includes the non-signing of the protocols of the Court.

This has prevented individuals and organizations in states which have not
ratified the protocol to have access to the Court. Since the adoption of the
protocol in 1998, only 26 of the 54 member states of the AU have ratified the
protocol. In addition to the ratification of the protocol, states have to make
a declaration to allow individuals and organizations to take cases to the Court
in Arusha.

Unfortunately, my country, Sierra Leone, has not even ratified the
protocol for which I urge our government, President Ernest Bai Koroma, The
Attorney General and Minister of Justice, parliamentarians and all stakeholders
in our democratic dispensation to endeavour and make the necessary preparations
to ratify the protocol.

As at January 2013, only 6 of the 26 state parties to
the protocol had made the
declaration recognizing the competence of the Court. These were all facts that
were revealed at the African Continental Media Conference hosted by the Court
from November 21 to 22 this year at the Naura Springs Hotel in Arusha, Tanzania.

Approximately forty -seven journalists from different African countries
participated in the conference and several issues including challenges facing
the Court were discussed and resolutions formulated for the way forward.
Presentations were also made by various participants.

During the opening
ceremony Hon Justice Bernard Ngoepe who is the Current Vice President of the
Court said one of the primary aims of the conference was to present information
about the activities of the Court so as to make journalists become familiar with
its operations and all issues related to it. He said the Court appreciated the
role of the media in the protection of human rights that was why it encouraged
dialogue and interaction with the
media.
Lady Justice Elsie Thompson in her speech made a distinction between
the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights and the African Commission on
Human and Peoples Rights
. She said in the former decisions are binding when
once they have been pronounced because they are judicial in nature while in the
Commission decisions are not binding. She also spoke on the composition of
the Court. She said staff members, including judges, were drawn from different countries
in Africa. She also enlightened participants on those who were entitled to
submit cases to the Court. She said these are; 1. The African Commission on
Human and Peoples Rights . 2. The state party to the protocol which had lodged a
complaint to the Commission. 3. The state party to the protocol against which
the complaint has been lodged to the Commission 4. The state party to the
protocol whose citizen is a victim of a human rights violation 5. African
intergovernmental Organizations.

Another presentation was made by Justice Fatsah Ouguergouz of Algeria titled
“The Relationships Between the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights and
other African Human Rights Structures ”. He said the African Court does not
stand alone but belongs to the AU system. According to him, more African
states have accepted obligations of human rights than the United States which is
a leading nation in the world.

He pointed out that the US has not recognized the
jusrisdiction of the International criminal Court (ICC) and the Inter American
Court. He also highlighted the role of the media in the construction of a
democratic state . “The essence of organizing this conference is that you
(journalists) are the best channel to reach the wider population. He underscored
the main principles of the constitutive act of the OAU, the predecessor of the
AU, contained in Article 4 that enshrines the promotion of gender equality,
respect for
democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law, good governance,
promotion of social justice so as to ensure balanced economic development,
respect for the sanctity of human rights, condemnation and rejection of impunity
and condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional acts.

He also pointed out the
Court’s right to intervention and its responsibility to protect victims;
examples in war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Justice Ramadani of Tanzania highlighted several issues relating to the Court
that included the challenges of the Court and the role of the media in
highlighting the activities of the Court. He said one of the challenges facing
the Court currently was that of enforcing judgment. He however noted: “It is a
common phenomenon even at domestic level”. He said the Court could pronounce a
judgement but the problem was compelling states to adhere to the dictates of the
judgement. He stressed the need for journalists to inform the wider population
about judgments of the Court adding that journalists should show more enthusiasm
on reporting the activities of the Court as they do for FIFA.

Jean-Pierre is the Senior Information Officer in the Information and
Communication Department of the Court. He also enlightened journalists on the
communication strategies of the court.

The Senior Public Sector Management Specialist for African Region at the World
Bank, Mr. Walid Malik highlighted several issues relating to the Court and
proffered suggestions on the way forward among which he said were the adoption
of international approaches, that also included ideas for enhancing judicial
information and engaging in citizens outreach in Africa. He also pointed out
factors that affect the justice system in Africa among which he said were
institutional policy gaps and lack of access to justice in many African
countries. He suggested for the need for mobile courts in Africa as happens in
some Latin American countries. He also pointed out weak media partnerships that
impede effective and timely flow of information.

There were also several panel discussions on a range of issues relating to the
Court during which journalists identified problems and proffered solutions.
The overall objective of the conference was to bring journalists on board in
the Court’s drive to enhance the protection of human rights in Africa by
developing linkages between it and the media , acquaint the media with the
African human rights system and acquaint it also with complete information
about the Court.

The conference was hosted at the Naura Springs Hotel from November 21 to 22
this year in Arusha Tanzania and attracted over forty -seven journalists from
different parts of Africa. The official languages of the Court are; Arabic,
English, French and Portuguese. The conference was funded by the European Union
and GIZ.

The current President of the Court is Lady Justice Sophia Akuffo of Ghana. The
Registrar is Dr. Robert Eno from Cameroon. The Deputy Registrar is Ms. Jester
Helena Charewa from Zimbabwe. Information about the Court or the process of lodging cases at
the Court could be done by post or mail through the Registrar’s office. The
court’s website is www.african-court.org and the email is info@african-court.org
or communication could be done through the PO.Box 6274 Arusha, Tanzania or Tel +255732979503

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