The African Court in Brief
- Establishment of the court
- Core values
- The strategic objectives
- Ratification & Declaration
- Ordinary sessions
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is the judicial arm of the African Union and one of the three regional human rights courts together with the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human rights. It was established to protect the human and peoples’ rights in Africa principally through delivery of judgments. The Court has its permanent seat 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 on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted on 9 June 1998 in Burkina Faso and came into force on 25 January 2004 after it was ratified by more than 15 countries. The mandate of the Court is 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.
The Court applies the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights instruments ratified by the States concerned. It does not have criminal jurisdiction like the International Criminal Court.
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.
The Mission of the Court is to enhance 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 on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 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 from any partisanship, bias, influence, whether it comes from States, NGOs, funding agencies or individuals.
- Fair and impartial application and interpretation of the provisions of the African Charter, the Protocol, the Rules and other relevant international human rights instruments.
- Transparent and ethical accountability in the operations of the Court.
- Fundamental rights of every individual to enjoy basic civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights are upheld.
- 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 work of the Court.
- Integrity of the Judges and staff working at the Court.
- Provide equal access to all potential users of the Court.
- Be responsive to the needs of those who approach the Court.
The Strategic Objectives
The Court’s Strategic Objectives emanate from the mandate of the Court and include the following:
- Exercise jurisdiction in all cases and disputes brought before it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter, the protocol and any other relevant human rights instruments ratified by the States concerned;
- Collaborate with sub-regional and national judicial bodies to enhance the protection of human rights on the continent;
- To enhance the participation of the African People in the work of the Court;
- To enhance the capacity of the Registry of the Court to be able to fulfil its mandate; and
- To enhance working relationship between the Court and the African Commission.
Ratification & Declaration
54 of the 55 Member States of the African Union (AU) have ratified or acceded to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights with the exception of Morocco and have therefore committed themselves to respecting the principles set out therein.
Only 34 Member States have currently ratified the Protocol establishing the African Court. Out of these, only eight (8) States have accepted the competence of the Court according to its Art. 34 (6), according to which individuals and NGOs can directly file cases to the African Court.
In the absence of such a Declaration, the application must be submitted to the Banjul Commission first, which may then – 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 in a year, lasting for four weeks usually in March, May, September and November, and hold Extra-Ordinary Sessions if necessary. The sittings normally take place at the seat of the Court; however, the Court may decide to sit in the territory of any other Member State of the African Union