One of the continent’s most precious and prized institutions, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, is under immense pressure. Its very existence as a human rights court for the continent is at stake – and now you can join in doing something about it. The court is asking for input on its next five-year plan and we urge you to take this plea for helpful ideas very seriously. Celebrate Africa Day by ensuring your voice is heard on the court’s future role!
All of the African Union’s members – well over 50 of them – agreed to the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. But very few of those countries have fully signed up by way of allowing individuals and NGOs to bring human rights-based cases for adjudication.
And instead of seeing more countries fully participating in its work, the trend has been in the opposite direction: The African Court has recently been hit by the decision of several countries to pull out from their initial agreement that individuals from those countries may petition the African Court for help. Once the time periods for withdrawal, set by the African Court, have expired, just six countries will remain on the list of fully committed members.
Against that background, and with only six out of more than 50 countries fully signed up, many people wonder about the court’s future.
No doubt about it, Africa needs a regional human rights court where individuals can feel their rights will be fully considered. And the court’s mandate is even more important now, given the impact of Covid-19 regulations and the powers that many states have given themselves to curb the pandemic. When these state powers infringe basic rights in a way that is unjustifiable, even during a disaster such as this, a specialist regional court is crucial to ensure respect for rights even as fundamental as the right to life. And as the pandemic eases, the African Court’s function will become even more important for individuals in states whose rulers continue to hold onto inflated powers.
In short, a weak court means human rights protection across Africa is also weakened.
Today, the African Court has issued a questionnaire sounding out stakeholders about how they see the way forward for the court and its work over the next five years. There’s a week to complete it by contributing comments, critiques and suggestions for the future.
Over the last years we have seen more judges in an increasing number of African countries quoting decisions of the African Court; the influence of its jurisprudence is obviously spreading. Here’s a chance to make sure that its influence continues and becomes even more relevant to the people who live in Africa and whose rights must be protected.
We say: the court needs the views of people working in the law and particularly on matters of human rights, about how it can be more responsive. That means the court needs YOUR views, and we urge you to complete and return the questionnaire. Making your contribution will be a great way to mark Africa Day.