African Court in Brief

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (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.

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.

To date, only the following twenty seven (27) 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, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.

Click here to see details on the dates of signature and ratification.

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. Specifically, the Court has two types of jurisdiction: contentious and advisory.

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.

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 of the Republic has 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.

According to the Protocol (Article 5) and the Rules (Rule 33), the Court may receive complaints and/or applications submitted to it either by the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights or State parties to the Protocol or African Intergovernmental Organizations. Non-Governmental Organizations with observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and individuals from States which have made a Declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court can also institute cases directly before the Court. As of March 2014, only seven countries had made such a Declaration. Those countries are Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania and Republic of Cote d'Ivoire (Click on the name, to see the Country’s Declaration Text).

The Court delivered its first judgment in 2009 following an application dated 11 August 2008 by Mr Michelot Yogogombaye against the Republic of Senegal. As at September 2013, the Court has received 28 applications. It has already finalized 23 cases. Currently the Court has 5 pending cases on its table to examine including  Requests for advisory opinion.  

Click here to see the updated list of applications and the status of the cases.

Click here to find out more information about the Court

  • The 33rd Ordinary Session

    The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights will hold its 33rd Ordinary Session at its Seat, at the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Conservation Centre, Arusha, Tanzania, from 26 May to 13 June 2014. 

  • Purpose & Scope

    The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has adopted a Legal Aid Policy for 2013-2014 to guide the operation of its Legal Aid Scheme for assisting indigent applicants before the Court.

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