From the Editor’s Keyboard

Sierra Leone Should Ratify AU Court Protocol

By  | 10 December 2013 at 18:24 | 1602 views

Many people do not know about the existence of or know very little about the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a creation of the African Union based in Arusha, a historic city in the United Republic of Tanzania.

There are many reasons for that, the most immediate being lack of media exposure, but that is being addressed now with the holding of a just concluded conference for African media in Arusha itself.

We shall examine what had been achieved and the ramifications of that conference in the near future but today we shall look at the need for African countries like Sierra Leone to ratify the protocol and sign the declaration that will allow their citizens to access the services of the Court.

With over 50 countries in Africa, less than 30 have ratified the protocol and signed the declaration even though the establishment of this court was a unanimous decision by all member states of the African Union.

Sierra Leone and her immediate neighbours, Liberia and Guinea, have not yet signed the two documents. This is strange because all three countries are developing democracies with highly respected leaders who had been at the forefront in the fight for democracy and human rights in their respective countries.

What are the advantages of Sierra Leone ratifying the protocol and signing the declaration? I can immediately think of three:

- Sierra Leonean judges will have the opportunity of sitting on the Court’s panel of judges. That will further elevate the profile of the country as a young democracy. Ghana has ratified the protocol and signed the declaration. The current President of the Court, Justice Sophia Akuffo, is a Ghanaian.

- It will allow or facilitate or make it easier for the Government and other Sierra Leoneans not just to access the Court in matters of litigation but also to conduct research and seek advice on legal and constitutional matters.

- Civil society activists in Sierra Leone can benefit enormously from the Court in matters of law and advocacy. The Government does not however need to fear the court because one of its stipulations is that citizens in individual member countries need to first exhaust all avenues of redress at home before asking the Court to intervene.

I therefore call on President Ernest Koroma and Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Franklyn Kargbo to see that Sierra Leone ratifies the protocol of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights as soon as possible. We should not be left behind in the march towards progress and true democracy.