Dear members of the Human Rights Community,
Dear members and friends of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
I have the real pleasure of delivering to you once again, in my capacity as President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a message of good wishes at the beginning of the year 2021. However, far from just being an exercise that has become a tradition, it is a message full of emotion and hope that I would like to send to all human rights actors working on our continent, whether they come under judicial, quasi-judicial or civil society bodies. My message is full of hope because, like all the peoples of the world, we would all like 2021 to be a year completely free of anguish, a year in which we do not fear for our lives and those of our people; in short, a year that is free from the COVID-19 pandemic and its many harmful consequences for the lives and well-being of thousands of women and men around the world.
We are all the more hopeful as I am certain that thanks to the effort and commitment of each actor, we will succeed in averting the harmful effects of the health crisis that has hit all of us in diverse ways, as well as in silencing weapons and entrenching the culture of human and peoples’ rights as recommended by the theme of the year in the implementation of the objectives of Agenda 2063 agenda of our shared organization.
For the African Court, the year 2021 marks the beginning of its 2021-2025 Five-Year Plan, which is the third in a series, as well as the 15 years of its establishment. Allow me, even if this is not the time for stocktaking, to acknowledge the young Court of human rights in Africa, the outstanding merit of its work and invaluable contribution to the protection of human rights in Africa, the promotion of democracy and the rule of law as the foundation for peace and social harmony. Despite the many limitations inherent in COVID-19’s pandemic prevention measures, the African Court has maintained the level of its judicial work and, in terms of volume of work, has issued as many judgments and ordered emergency interim measures against the backdrop of the right to health, life, property and the exercise of political rights.
The year 2021 comes with even more challenges to us. This is why the Court, building on the progress already made in the accomplishment of its mission, intends to focus its action on the following priority areas in the near future: strengthening inter-institutional cooperation and complementarity, consolidating its judicial work quantitatively and qualitatively, developing judicial diplomacy with other stakeholders, and working harder to enhance the visibility of its actions.
Complementarity of the bodies of the Union vested with a human rights mandate is a requirement set out in the Protocol establishing the Court, with a view to foster dynamic interaction between institutions working in the same field. Admittedly, until now almost all applications in respect of human rights violations have emanated from individuals and NGOs by virtue of the Declaration of States accepting the competence of the Court to receive such applications. However, let us bear in mind that notwithstanding the Declaration or in the absence of the Declaration, individuals and NGOs can also petition the Court through the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This is why I am calling for a leap beyond the tendency to be overly cautious, in order to make effective all the modes of referral to the Court as provided for in the Protocol. It is also the price for the promotion of human rights in Africa and the right of every person who considers that their rights have been violated and therefore have to be heard by our organs.
The judicial work of the Court will not be effective without the input and commitment of all stakeholders, including the Member States of the African Union. On this point, the challenges are numerous, as evidenced by the high percentage of decisions that remain unimplemented and the flurry of withdrawals of the Declaration by some States, which suggest the beginnings of a serious crisis of trust that, fortunately, can be contained. The non-execution of the decisions of bodies vested with a human rights mandate by the States concerned is a threat to the human rights protection system in Africa. There is still time to initiate serious reflections on the future of our decisions in order to raise, through their effective implementation, the level of human rights protection, strengthen confidence in our institutions and to meet the challenges of our mission. This is the key to the success and credibility of our work.
We must further develop a democratic culture by giving force to the law as well as to judicial and democratic institutions. Without a judicial culture, respect for human rights and for the laws that constitute the key link to the rule of law and peace will be but an illusion. We have a great responsibility in this regard, and one of the ways to foster the hope of a better future in the implementation of human rights at both the continental and national levels is cooperation and active partnership. We are called to work together, without exception, because regardless of where they are, everyone in their place is an opportunity for our humanity. The Court will continue the judicial dialogue that it has already begun with the high national courts on the one hand, and also with the regional human rights courts on the other. The Court intends to extend this dialogue to the Member States in a closer framework and through diplomatic channels.
Let us therefore commit together to give the Court renewed dynamism by bringing innovations to bear on it, with a view to improving the quality of its performance both in its judicial and administrative functions.
Finally, I would like to happily take this opportunity to once again to wish all of you my best wishes of good health and to encourage you in every respect. May the year 2021 truly be for us a happy year full of blessings, happiness and success.
Judge Sylvain ORE
President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.