27TH – 29TH JUNE 2022, AT HOTEL VERDE,
ZANZIBAR- UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA
- Your Excellency, Dr Hussein Ali Mwinyi- President of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar;
- The Hon. Justices of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights led by the President Hon. Lady Justice Imani Daud Aboud;
- The Hon. Justices of ECOWAS Court of Justice;
- The Hon. Justices of the East African Court of Justice;
- Representative(s) UN Human Rights Treaty body;
- Representatives of Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian led by Prof. Morten Kjaerum Director RWI;
- Representatives from Academic Network – Prof. Joy Ezeilo, Faculty of Law, University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
- Representative(s) of Giz;
- Dr. Stefanie Rothenberger, Director Rule of Law Program for Anglophone Sub-Saharan Africa – Konrad Adnauer Stiftung (KAS);
- Ms. Maymuchka Lauriston, Deputy Regional Representative, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights;
- Representative African Center for Disease Control and Prevention;
- Mr. Frew Demeke, Program Manager, democratic Governance, Human Rights and Gender Equality- Regional Development cooperation, Swedish Development Cooperation;
- Registrar of the African Court, ECOWAS Court of Justice and the EACJ;
- Distinguished staff;
- Media Present;
- Ladies and Gentlemen: all Protocols observed.
- With great pleasure, I stand before you on this important tripartite forum that brought together Judges and staff from the African Court, the EACJ and ECOWAS Court of Justice to make brief remarks.
- This is an important gathering which affords participants an opportunity to share knowledge and experience, exchange judicial experiences, explore avenues to strengthen existing cooperation and establishing new relations, as well as discussion on issues of common interest and challenges.
- I express my gratitude on behalf of the EACJ to all the funders and organisers of this judicial dialogue namely; RWI through the support of SIDA, GIZ, KAS and the UN Office of the High Commission for Human Rights.
- It is my aspiration that this will not be the first and last tripartite consultation forum but more will follow.
- It is without doubt I believe, the methodology in place will enhance the achievement of the objectives of this judicial dialogue, and afford participants fruitful presentations and discussions for our common goal.
Your Excellence the President,
- Am pleased to mention that, the EACJ has initiated and maintained cooperation with other International Courts.
For instance, in 2020 the EACJ and the African Court signed an MoU to cooperate in areas of common interest, of which to date, joint staff capacity building trainings have been held, knowledge and information shared, and courtesy calls made between the leaderships of both Courts.
Equally the EACJ appreciates the visit of ECOWAS Judges in 2018 and a joint study visit of legal staff and librarians from the three Courts to Sweden, not to mention, the most recent training of librarians in Zimbabwe all facilitated by RWI.
- Having said that, allow me briefly talk about the establishment, mandate and jurisdiction of the EACJ. It is a judicial organ of the East African Community (EAC) established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the EAC of 1999.
The Court’s major mandate is to ensure adherence to law in the interpretation and application of, and compliance with the EAC Treaty. Article 23 (1)
Its task is to ensure smooth regional integration through administration of justice and respect to fundamental principles of the Community which includes good governance, rule of law and promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on human and Peoples’ Rights.
- The Court was inaugurated on 30th November 2001 by the EAC Summit of Heads of States. Last year, EACJ celebrated its 20th Anniversary which was preceded by a Judicial Symposium, that brought together over 200 stakeholders across the region to discuss on the milestones of the Court.
- Allow me inform that, for the last 20 years of existence, the EACJ has received around 639 cases. We believe the number should be higher than this, but the key challenge is low awareness about the Court and inadequate knowledge on its jurisdiction and procedures among East African residents.
- The EACJ has two divisions. The First Instance Division which hears and determines cases at first instance, and an Appellate Division which handles appeals from the First Instance Division. Article 23 (1) & (2)
Initially it comprised of a single chamber. However, in 2006 following its decision in Anyang’ Nyong’o case, the EAC Treaty was amended which substantially changed the Court structure, jurisdiction and access.
- Arusha is the temporary seat of the Court until the EAC Summit of the Heads of States determine its permanency.
In order to bring justice closer to East Africans, the EACJ has established sub-registries in all capitals of the EAC Partner States except for the two recent new members of the Community (RSS & DRC) of which, processes are under way.
Litigants no longer travel to Arusha to file a case, but can file in their respective sub registry offices and only come to Arusha during hearing and determination.
The Court has also introduced annual rotational court sessions at end of each year, to be held in the EAC Partner States. This aims to increase its visibility and to take its services closer to the people. (Bujumbura -2021 & Kampala Uganda-2022)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- The EACJ sessions are held quarterly a year due to the ad hoc nature of services of the Judges. With exception of the President and the Principal Judge who serve on full time, the rest of the Judges service on temporary basis.
- The Court is accessible by any legal or natural person resident in EAC, employees of the Community, the Partner States, the Secretary General and national judiciaries and tribunals of the EAC members.
- Unlike other international Courts, no exhaustion of local remedies required to access the EACJ, as long as a matter is instituted within two-months limitation period and no fees charged for filing a case.
- The EACJ jurisdiction covers disputes on the interpretation and application of the EAC Treaty, can render an advisory opinion, determine disputes arising from the EAC Staff Rules and Regulations and terms and condition of employment. It can as well issue a Preliminary Ruling and handle Arbitral matters.
The arbitral jurisdiction of the Court is not well known by East Africans, and therefore not utilized effectively. For this reason, currently only 6 arbitration matters have been received since the inception of the Court.
On the other hand, national judiciaries of the EAC Partner States complement the interpretive mandate of the EACJ. (Article 33) However, to ensure uniform interpretation and application of the EAC Treaty, the EACJ decisions take precedence over national courts decisions on a similar matter.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
- In 2015, the Court jurisdiction was extended by the Summit of the EAC Heads of States to include trade and investment matters by signing a Protocol to that effect. The Protocol has been ratified by Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda while, Burundi and Tanzania are in the process of doing the same. Meanwhile, the EACJ under its interpretive mandate, has been handling cases with bearing on cross border trade in the region. (BAT & KIOO)
- Article 27(2) of the EAC Treaty provide for future extension of the EACJ jurisdiction to include among others human rights. To date, a Protocol extending the EACJ jurisdiction has not been operationalised.
Several reasons were given for the delayed extension. Some include: Partner States subscription to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Jurisdiction be deferred pending the attainment of a political federation and to remain in the domain of national jurisdiction.
With the withdrawal of declarations on the African Court jurisdiction and non-deposit by other EAC Partner States, the reasoning might be demerited.
- Nevertheless, the EACJ despite not having explicit human rights jurisdiction, has built its jurisprudence on the protection of the rights of individuals in EAC. The Court relies on Article 6, 7(2), 8(1) (c), 23 and 27(1) of the EAC Treaty to justify its jurisdiction over cases involving human rights. On this basis, majority of the cases heard and determined by the Court, are of human rights nature.
In James Katabazi’s case the EACJ held, while it will not assume jurisdiction to adjudicate on human rights disputes, it will not abdicate from exercising its interpretive jurisdiction merely because a matter involves allegations on human rights violation.
In addition, the EAC Common Market Protocol provides for series of freedoms on the movement of goods, services, capital, labour and persons across the region as well as rights of establishment and residence. Therefore, the EACJ has to interpret, apply and ensure compliance with all Community laws.
The Guest of Honour,
Distinguished Guests, With these few remarks, allow me to wish you all fruitful presentations and discussions that will enhance our skills and knowledge in addressing issues related to fundamental rights and freedoms in the region and Africa continent at large.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION