- Honourable Commissioner Solomon Ayele Dersso, Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
- Honourable Remy Ngoy Lumbu, Vice-Chairperson of the Commission
- Honourable Justice Blaise Tchikaya, Vice-President of the Court
- Acting Secretary of the Commission and Registrar of the Court
- Officers of the Court and other staff
I wish you a warm welcome to the seat of the African Court in Arusha where we have held joint successful meetings in the past. I intend on making very brief remarks on the understanding that the Bureaux meets to prepare the meeting of plenary of the two Institutions. As such, the issues placed before us during this meeting will also form part of the discussions to be held tomorrow. Therefore, I would like to shape my remarks as an advocacy to a shift in leadership approach to managing the complementarity relationship between the Commission and the Court. I would like to address our meeting two main issues in this respect; firstly, I believe we need to arrive at a joint leadership position on whether but most importantly how we want to unleash the full benefits of complementarity as prescribed in both the African Charter and Court Protocol. Secondly, we also need to agree on the main possible means through which complementarity is feasible at this point in the operation of our respective institutions.
It might be considered that the first issue has been over-discussed but I would like to think that the way complementarity was couched in the Charter and Court Protocol leaves much room for an innovative approach depending on the leadership in charge of the institutions. In this light, the best manner in which I propose we should begin to market complementarity to our colleagues during the plenary meeting is marketing by example. Our history of complementarity reveals that, due to some extra institutional challenges, we have so far been limited on our innovation skills to developing winning approaches to complementarity. If we as leaders of the two institutions fail to show genuine willingness to work together, then we surely do not expect other members of our institutions to adhere to our joint project. Against this premise, I suggest that we redirect our focus on the directives of the African Charter, of the Court Protocol and on the legal protection of the rights of African citizens. Again, as I said earlier, complementarity is not grounded only in the Court Protocol but also in the Charter which had provided right from the establishment of the Commission that other instruments may be adopted to complete and strengthen the African human rights system.
Distinguished colleagues, the second limb of my remarks relates to how we should then market complementarity the other members of our institutions who are hoping to look on us as their leaders. On this issue, I would like to make a preliminary point about what remains on the agenda after years of engagement which culminated in the recent adoption of our respective new Rules of Procedure. I believe we can agree on some key possibilities; firstly, the Commission can file cases before the Court immediately after seizure and this is in line with the Protocol and both our Rules; secondly, the Court can transfer cases to the Commission in circumstances and under conditions to be detailed while discussing the study that was provided by our Registry and Secretariat; thirdly, tools such as amicable settlement, onsite investigations, and technical support to implementation of judgements can be explored as means through which the Court can effect complementarity with the Commission whose dialogical mandate gives it specific skills that the Court is not in principle in a better position to display or deploy.
Dear colleagues, there surely is a wider spectrum of ways and means for a renewed approach to our relationship when it comes to judicial or jurisdictional complementarity. I merely alluded to the most obvious proposals that have formed part of our discussions over the recent years in order to build on my inaugural engagement on how leadership can make a significant difference in how old issues are discussed within new frameworks. I can assure you that, under the leadership of its new Bureau, the African Court is fully committed to engaging on complementarity with the Commission in a novel spirit and through innovative thinking. The message that I was asked by my colleague to transmit to you as the leadership of the Commission is that we do hope and expect that the joint meeting of the full institutions will actually be a joint meeting. A joint meeting would mean that we hold open discussions not by facing each other but rather together and looking in the same direction. I am confident that, as we review issues on the agenda, we will therefore express different views that converge towards our common goal of human rights justice in Africa. I wish us fruitful deliberations and a successful meeting.