As African Court rounds up 62nd session…

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) rounds up its 62nd Ordinary Session 1st October at its seat in Arusha, Tanzania. KEHINDE OSASONA revisits some of its judicial exploits.

Overview

African Court was a creation of a unity Summit of 1998 by the then Organization of African Unity’s (OAU) now African Union (AU).

At the parley which took place in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, African Heads of State signed the Protocol to establish the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR).

Few years after, African Court berthed but not without dint of intense negotiations, compromise and hard work before all stakeholders in the African project reach a common position.

But as the court commence its 62nd Ordinary Session last month, precisely September 6, 2021, at its Seat in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania, the judges will among others; examine a number of applications until October 1, 2021.

The court which meets four times a year in ordinary sessions and extraordinary sessions has so far delivered 257 decisions comprising 131 judgments and 126 orders out of applications received.

While 299 emanated from individuals, 21 came from NGOs and three from the Human Rights Commission in Banjul, Gambia.

Presided over by Hon. Lady Justice Imani Daud Aboud, a national of Tanzania, the Court under Article 3 of the Protocol, has jurisdiction to deal with all cases and disputes submitted to it regarding the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the concerned States.

Although, the Court can only deal with cases submitted against Countries that have ratified the Protocol and deposited the Article 34(6) Declaration in cases involving individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations, the case nevertheless involve allegations of human rights and those alleged violations must have taken place in the State concerned after it ratified the Protocol, unless the alleged violations are on-going.

Playing big brother; a tie-back

No doubt, the Nigeria’s influential position and its unwavering commitment to the peace and stability in the African region and the globe cannot be overemphasized.

The country’s role and various contributions led to the election of one of its own as a Judge in the court.

The Nigeria representative, Lady Justice Stella Isibhakhomen Anukam who was elected Judge of the court in July 2018 for a term of six years, is among the 11 judges, who are nationals of member of the African Union elected in their individual capacity.

Apart from raising the Nigerian bar in Arusha, Anukam, a jurist with over 32 years of professional legal experience with exceptional competence and dedication to duty have alongside others delivered landmark judgment in the court.

Other Justices of the court are Justice Blaise Tchikaya (Vice President) of the court from the Republic of Congo, Justice Ben Kioko, Kenya, Justice Rafaâ Ben Achour, Tunisia, Lady Justice Ntyam Ondo Mengue, Cameroon, Lady Justice Marie Thérèse Mukamulisa, Rwanda, Lady Justice Tujilane Rose Chizumila, Malawi, Lady Justice Bensaoula Chafika, Algeria, Justice Dumisa Ntsebeza, South Africa, Justice Sacko Modibo, Mali.

While receiving a delegation of the court in Abuja recently, the Vice President Prof Yemi Osinbajo commended the work of the African Court on the protection of human rights.

The Vice President assured the African Court there would be consultations amongst relevant authorities to consider making the Declaration to allow Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals have direct access to the Court.

Overcoming challenges

Despite its 40 years as the cornerstone of human rights on the continent, the court is not without its own myriads of challenges.

However, at the opening of its 62nd session, the court President reiterated its resolve to churn out quality delivery in the course of dispensing justice to Africa and the Africans.

She said, “The Court has indisputably recorded successes and brought about key changes to the human rights discourse in Africa. These gains should serve as stepping stone in restoring confidence in the Court as advanced by the Bureau when we took over earlier this year.

“I am delighted that the agenda of the 62nd Ordinary Session of the Court, which kicks off today reflects this new trend towards greater effectiveness of the Court with a focus on improving on quality in delivering justice to Africa and the Africans. “I first note that judicial matters feature lesser work on requests for provisional measures while a substantial number of matters are scheduled for deliberation and delivery of judgments. It is also worth noting that various studies are submitted for our consideration which will lead to policy decisions on questions as important as how we make use of and frame rulings on provisional measures or recourse to amicable settlement processes.

“It cannot be overemphasized that our working methods weight critically in the fabric of the main product delivered by the Court, which is its decisions. Our decisions, the reasoning that back them and the shape in which they come in the operation chapters set the tone for our visibility and legitimacy in the African human rights system but also in the arena of international human rights law.

“Honourable Judges and staff of the Registry, our working methods therefore become an area of continued engagement and I hope the present session serves this purpose. I would also like, in the same vein, to stress the need to pursue our commitment to devising strategies for a more effective management of judicial matters including innovative ways of addressing increasing delays in completing cases and resolving our backlog through formulas that bear in mind significant resources currently invested in examining repetitive cases.

“Finally, our discussions during the present session also involve taking stock of the preparation of important events to be held by the end of the year. The Judicial Dialogue has now become one flagship event of the Court thus requiring meticulous preparation for a full success. The same applies to the international conference being organized on the implementation and impact of our decisions back to back with the 63rd session planned to be held in Dar es salaam. The Bureau has been monitoring the preparatory stages of all these events together with the Registrar and the plenary will be duly briefed at some point during the session.

“Dear colleagues and Registry staff, as we discuss and deliberate on these important issues in the next four weeks, I invite us to bear in mind the imperative of achieving overall goals set out in our strategic plan and more immediate expected outcomes of the annual work programme of the Court,” Aboud said.

As new President launches four year strategic plan

On 31 May 2021, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) elected Justice Imani Daud Aboud from the United Republic of Tanzania as President for a term of two years.

The Court at its 61st Ordinary Session also elected Justice Blaise Tchikaya from the Republic of Congo as the Vice-President.

Justice Imani takes over from Justice Sylvain Oré from Côte d’Ivoire who has completed his tour of duty. Justice Tchikaya succeeds Justice Ben Kioko from Kenya.

Earlier, the Session began with the swearing-in of two Judges elected during the 38th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council in February 2021. They are: Hon Justice Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza SC from the Republic of South Africa and Hon Justice Sacko Modibo from the Republic of Mali.

During the four-week Session, the Judges, among others examined a number of applications.

The Session also the formal launch of its 2021-2025 Strategic Plan.

Landmark judgment: A tie- back

On September 30 September 2021 in Arusha, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights delivered ten Judgments.

The verdicts marked the close of its four-week 62nd Ordinary Session.

Some of the judgments are: Application 003/2015 – Kennedy Owino and Another v. United Republic of Tanzania (Reparations), Application 029/2015 –Yusuph Hassan v United Republic of Tanzania (Ruling on Jurisdiction and Admissibility), Application 001/2016 – Chrizostom Benyoma v. United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations), Application 018/2016 – Cosma Faustin v. United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations), Application 024/2016 – Amini Juma v. United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations), Application 026/2016 – Benard Balele v United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations),  Application 047/2016 – Ladislaus Onesmo v. United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations), Application 047/2016 – Ladislaus Onesmo v.

United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations) (Français),  Application 002/2017 – Ernest Karatta and Others v. United Republic of Tanzania (Merits and Reparations), Application 011/2019 – Yusuph Said v Tanzania (Ruling on Jurisdiction and Admissibility in default), Application 006/2020 – Ghaby Kodeih v. Republic of Benin (Ruling on Jurisdiction and Admissibility) (Français)