The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Court) in brief
- Establishment of the Court
- Core values
- The strategic objectives
- Ratification & Declaration
- Ordinary Sessions
The African Court is the judicial arm of the African Union and one of the three regional human rights courts, the others being the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human rights. It was established to protect human and peoples’ rights in Africa principally through judicial consideration of human rights complaints. The Court’s permanent seat is in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania.
Establishment of the Court
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). The Protocol establishing the African Court was adopted on 9 June 1998 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and entered into force on 25 January 2004 after it was ratified by 15 African States, as prescribed under its article 34(3).
The Court applies the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) and other human rights instruments ratified by the States concerned. It does not have criminal jurisdiction like the International Criminal Court.
The African Court was established to complement the protective mandate 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 African Charter. The African Court applies the provisions of the African Charter and other human rights instruments ratified by the States concerned.
The Mission of the Court is to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights by strengthening the human rights protection system in Africa and ensuring respect for and compliance with the African Charter, as well as other international human rights instruments, through judicial decisions.
The vision of the Court is an Africa with a viable human rights culture.
The Court bases its core values on the African Charter and other internationally recognized principles of human rights and the promotion of the rule of law. The Court continues to foster and uphold the following core values:
- Judicial independence and impartiality as between all litigants, parties and stakeholders.
- Fair and impartial application and interpretation of the provisions of the African Charter, other relevant international human rights treaties, the Protocol and the Rules.
- Transparent and ethical accountability in all operations of the Court.
- Upholding every individual’s freedom to enjoy basic civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.
- Collaboration with relevant stakeholders in pursuance of the Court’s objective of protecting human and peoples’ rights.
- Non-discrimination and equality in performance of the Court’s work.
- Integrity of the Judges and staff working at the Court.
- Providing equal access to all potential users of the Court.
- Responsiveness to the needs of those who approach the Court.
The Strategic Objectives
The Court’s Strategic Objectives for the planning period 2021- 2025 emanate from the mandate of the Court andare :
- Improve Judicial Processes
- Enhanced outreach and cooperation
- Strengthened Institutional Capacity
Ratification & Declaration
54 of the 55 Member States of the African Union (AU), with the exception of Morocco, have ratified or acceded to the African Charter and have, therefore, committed themselves to respecting the principles set out therein.
Only 34 Member States have currently ratified the Protocol. Out of these, only (8) States have filed the Declaration under Article 34 (6 ) of the Protocol by which they accept the competence of the Court to consider applications filed by individuals and NGOs.
In the absence of such a Declaration, an application against states that have not made the Declaration must be submitted to the Banjul Commission first, which may – after preliminary examination – decide to refer the case to the Court.
The following 34 states have ratified the Protocol, the ones in green have also deposited the Special Declaration:
Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau,
Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia.
The Court holds Ordinary Sessions, four times a year, lasting for four weeks usually in March, May, September and November, and holds Extra-Ordinary Sessions if necessary. The sittings normally take place at the seat of the Court; however, the Court may decide to sit in any other Member State of the African Union