Hon. Lady Justice Imani Aboud, President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
Hon. Dr. Damas D. Ndumbaro (MP.), Minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, United Republic of Tanzania;
Hon. John Mongella, the Regional Commissioner, Arusha;
Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners Accredited to the United Republic of Tanzania;
Excellencies Heads of Organs and Institutions of the African Union Accredited to the United Republic of Tanzania
Hon. Judges presents;
Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
A very Good Morning!
It is with great pleasure and honour that I join you in this august occasion to officiate the opening of the 2023 Judicial Year of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. On behalf of H.E. Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and on my own behalf, I wish to welcome you all to Tanzania and to this beautiful city of Arusha particularly to all our guests who have travelled from across the continent and beyond as well as those joining us virtually. KARIBUNI SANA!
H.E. President Samia had wished to personally address this august assembly but she could not be here due to other national commitments. However, the President directed me to assure you that she attaches great importance to the work of the Court and commends the achievements made so far in pursuit of “An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law” as articulated by Aspiration 3 of Agenda 2063: The Africa we want.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The founding fathers of the then Organization of the African Unity (OAU) among other things, had a vision to establish an Organization based on the foundation of respect for human rights. This vision was translated into reality when the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and its subsequent Protocol on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights came into force. Tanzania is honoured to host the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights because to us, the hosting of this Court, is among others, a reflection of our solemn commitment to adhere to the basic principles of equality, justice, and respect for human rights and dignity.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
The convening of this event gives us an opportunity to assess what has been accomplished and address the challenges of the Court in performing its functions. In realising its objectives, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has achieved a lot over the years since its inception.
The Court has delivered land mark judgments; resolved a number of human rights issues at national, sub-regional and continental level; engaged various stakeholders through judicial diplomacy to deliberate on important issues and challenges facing the Court; and has continued to advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the committed and trusted officials of the Court and other stakeholders who have devoted themselves to stand and champion the triumph of justice and legacy of human rights in our Continent.
Also, I wish to applaud the Court for working tirelessly to continue intergenerational dialogue through various initiatives including the facilitation of academic placements and internships for young professionals; continued engagement with legal professionals from Member States and their training on the work of the Court. This indeed has had a tremendous impact on visibility of the Court in the Continent while promoting and protecting human rights.
I have also noted with satisfaction that as part of the conference, an Inter-generational Dialogue will be convened where different stakeholders, particularly academicians and young legal professionals, will have a chance to exchange views on how they can enhance their engagement with the jurisprudence of the national, regional and continental mechanisms for human rights scholarship, advocacy and litigation. It is laudable that, the Court is forward looking in its legacy to equip the young legal professionals and academicians with the tools they need to collaborate with the human rights work it undertakes.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
While we are optimistic with the achievements by the Court, there are some glitches that the Court needs to address in order for it to be relevant in the African context. Allow me to mention a few. It has been a concern of some Member States that, this Court is encroaching on their sovereignty by operating as an appellate Court to adjudicate issues that are not under its jurisdiction. It is also a concern of some Member States that, some judgements and orders of the Court are drawn without having due regard of the African context as a result of which most of them remain unimplemented. Worse still, some Member States have withdrawn their Declarations and others are hesitant to make and deposit theirs.
To address such glitches, it is my view that it is imperative for the Court to abide to its mandate and respect the sovereignty of Member States while appreciating the diversity of legal processes in the continent. I would also wish to encourage the incumbent President of the Court, Her Ladyship Judge Imani Aboud to continue her efforts to engage Member States to discuss challenges that affect the implementation of the Court’s mandate.
I firmly believe that, it is through dialogue between the Court and Member States that the intended objectives of the Court can be realised. I wish to reaffirm that Tanzania remains committed to the mandate, objectives of the African Union and the implementation of Agenda 2063. We are committed to build strong African Institutions including the African Court.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
I find the choice of the theme of this event “integrating the jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms into national systems” to be extremely relevant. I beg your indulgence in advance for what I am going to say hence forth because I am an economist and I surely do not have the credentials even to merit as a bush lawyer! Human rights are in principle universal and some aspects thereof form part of customary international law. National systems vested with the responsibility to protect and promote human rights had always sought inspiration from national and supranational bodies with shared values and principles in dispensation of justice.
The judiciary of Tanzania, which follows a common law tradition is not restricted to making reference to the jurisprudence of a foreign court and from time to time borrows precedents and doctrines from other countries under common law tradition. Hence, the integration of the jurisprudence of foreign judgements into the Tanzanian judicial system is not a new phenomenon. With similarities born out of the colonial inheritance, our jurisprudence has sought for guidance, inspiration, and orientation in enacting, and interpreting laws from other countries such as England, India, Canada and others.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
In cognisance of our role to promote human rights and as members of the international community, the United Republic of Tanzania has also subjected herself to the jurisdiction of the East African Court of Justice established under the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community as well as the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights as founded under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Furthermore, we have also signed, ratified and domesticated a number of international human rights treaties. As a result, the Tanzania judiciary has delivered a number of landmark decisions on human rights inspired by the jurisprudence and standards set by regional, continental and international judicial and quasi-judicial institutions.
For instance, in Civil Appeal No. 204 of 2017, Attorney General versus Rebecca Z. Gyumi, the Court of Appeal referred to provisions of international treaties to determine the constitutionality of Section 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, Cap 29 Revised Edition of 2002. In its judgement the Court of Appeal was of the view that “…Tanzania is not an isolated island. It has from time to time been indebted to legal jurisprudence from other jurisdictions by ratifying and domesticating international, regional and sub regional instruments or enacting laws as a means of acknowledging the outcry of the international community and taking action against violation of human rights which includes the right of a girl child.” Consequently, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the High Court that Section 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, that subjected girls under the age of 18 years to marriage, were unconstitutional.
In this respect, I encourage judges, advocates and academicians to continue advocating for the integration of the jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms into national systems. This can be achieved through the following:
First, by promoting and integrating the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the court systems to enable judges and advocates to easily access legal materials from other jurisdictions. Second, by conducting judicial dialogues through symposiums and other platforms that will bring together participants from different jurisdictions. This may contribute to cross fertilization of ideas between individuals of different legal systems and trigger integration of foreign jurisprudence with national systems when such individuals assume responsibilities in their respective jurisdictions.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
One challenge of integrating the jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms into national systems is that some judges, may arbitrarily make reference and rely on decisions that are favourable to their opinions while glossing over the domestic context, laws and procedures. Under such circumstances, judges may refer certain decisions to justify their pre -conceived judgement instead of making an in-depth analysis of domestic precedents applicable to the case at hand. In this regard, while I encourage integration of jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms to national systems, I wish to point out the following cautions:
First, is preservation of the autonomy of the judiciary of national systems.
Ideally, the integration should be done within the context of domestic laws and legal procedures. In my simple understanding, the law requires that courts must carefully observe the similarities of the cases before applying the principles of a foreign court to a domestic situation.
Second, the jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms is persuasive and not authoritative. As such reference to a foreign jurisprudence is only for inspiration to enable advocates and judges determine a case at hand.
Third, the judiciaries should undertake the integration process with a sense of common judicial identity and enterprise. It is the responsibility of judiciaries to interpret laws in the dispensation of justice. In this regard, integration of jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms should be done with the view to preserve the rule of law.
Excellencies, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
To conclude my remarks, let me take this opportunity to reiterate the commitment of the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania to honour the Host Agreement and implement it to the letter and spirit. I also wish to reaffirm Tanzania’s pledge and readiness to engage with all relevant stakeholders in order to preserve the African Court. It is our expectation that, with the spirit of unity, in this opening of the judicial year we will learn and subsequently come up with measures that will further enhance integration of jurisprudence of regional and international human rights mechanisms into national systems.
I wish to take this opportunity to invite our visitors to take advantage of your presence here to sample Tanzania’s unique attractions in and around Arusha region. Besides the exceptionally warm welcoming spirit of the people, cool weather conditions and serenic view of Mount Meru, Arusha is home to many touristic attractions and gateway to safari destinations including Mount Kilimanjaro – the roof top of Africa, Ngorongoro National Park and the mighty Serengeti National Park that is famous for the wildebeests’ annual ritual migration. I guarantee, you will enjoy and long to settle in Tanzania for good or at least visit us every year! Karibuni tena!
Believe me the African Union could not have picked a better spot to host the African Court! I am sure Honourable Lady Justice Imani Aboud and other Officials of the Court can attest to that, and that they are enjoying their stay. I wish to assure you that, the Government will continue to take good care of you and make sure you fulfil your obligations with ease. I also thank the Arusha Regional Commissioner and the people of Arusha for their generous hospitality to our guests. Asanteni sana!
With these remarks, it is now my singular honour and pleasure to declare that the 2023 Judicial Year of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights officially opened.
I wish you fruitful deliberations and a very successful Judicial Year.
I thank you for your kind attention.