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The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights : A Court for Justice in Africa

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is a continental organ working to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the continent. On one hand, the mandate of promotion carried out by the different working groups, committees and conventions ratified by members States. On the other hand, the human rights protection mandate is provided by the African Court of Human and People’s Rights.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court) was established through a Protocol to the African Charter. The Protocol on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on 9 June 1998 and entered into force on 25 January 2004. 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 court is based in Arusha, Tanzania. The court consists of 11 judges elected by the AU Assembly from a list of candidates that are been nominated by members states of the AU. The judges are elected for a period of six years and are eligible for re-election only once.

Altogether, 30 states have ratified the protocol of establishment of the African Court: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros, Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, and Uganda. As of January 2019, nine state parties to the protocol have made a declaration recognizing the competence of the Court to receive cases from non-government organizations (NGOs) and individuals. The nine states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Gambia and Tunisia.

The Court´s juridiction applies only to states that have ratified the Court´s Protocol. The Court entertain cases and disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter. The Court has the authority to settle cases submitted by states parties, African Inter-governmental Organizations, NGOs with observer status before the Commission and even individuals.

On December 15, 2009, the Court delivered its first judgment, finding an application against Senegal inadmissible. The Court’s first judgement on the merits of a case was issued on June 14, 2013, in a case involving Tanzania. It found Tanzania had violated its citizens’ rights to freely participate in government directly or through representatives regardless of their party affiliation, and ordered Tanzania to take constitutional, legislative, and all other measures necessary to remedy these violations. On March 28, 2014, the Court ruled against Burkina Faso, in a case brought by the family of Norbert Zongo, a newspaper editor who was murdered in 1998. The court found that Burkina Faso had failed to properly investigate the murder, and had failed in its obligations to protect journalists.

As far as human rights is concerned, the African Court is the body that address rising issues on the continent. Human rights defenders, CSOs have full accessibility to the Court for case resolution against States were recorded violations are known. This is therefore a glimmer of hope for the peoples of Africa who have a defender of their most fundamental rights.

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