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The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights was established to complement and reinforce the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission – often referred to as the Banjul Commission), which is a quasi-judicial body charged with monitoring the implementation of the Charter.
Contentious Jurisdiction of the Court
Under Article 3 of the Protocol, the Court has jurisdiction to deal with all cases and disputes submitted to it regarding the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the concerned States.
Advisory Jurisdiction of the Court
Under Article 4 of the Protocol, the Court may, at the request of a Member State of the African Union, any of the organs of the African Union, or any African organization recognized by the African Union, provide an opinion on any legal matter relating to the Charter or any other relevant human rights instruments, provided that the subject matter of the opinion is not related to a matter being examined by the Commission.
Extension of Jurisdiction of the Court to Deal with Criminal Matters
By Decision Assembly/AU /Dec.213 (XII) of February 2009, taken in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union requested the AU Commission, “in consultation with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to assess the implications of recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court to try international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to submit a report to the Assembly in 2010”.
By its Decision Assembly/AU/Dec.292 (XV) of July 2010, the Assembly requested the African Union Commission to finalize the study on the implications of extending the jurisdiction of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to cover international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to submit, through the Executive Council, a report thereon to the next regular session of the Assembly, scheduled for January 2011”.
To implement those decisions of the Assembly, the African Union Commission engaged a consultant to undertake a study on the implications of extending the jurisdiction of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (yet to be established), including considering whether unconstitutional change or prolongation of government, could be considered a new crime.
The consultant completed the study and in August and November 2010, the AUC organised workshops with key stakeholders to validate the study.