Human RightsNews

LONG ROAD TO JUSTICE: States shy away from executing own human rights court’s rulings

Human rights proponents converged in Arusha, Tanzania, recently to chart out ways of enhancing effectiveness in justice delivery.

SUNDAY June 30, 2024

Human rights scholars, practitioners, state actors, African Union human rights bodies and judges and staff of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, recently to analyse the manner in which the court’s decisions are received, perceived and implemented domestically. PHOTOS | PAUL MZUNGUTE

By Patty Magubira

The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Human rights advocates are worried over African states’ reluctance to implement judgments and orders the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights issues.

The states though theoretically accept the African human rights treaties, they drug their feet in complying with and implementing the jurisprudence of African human rights bodies, they say.

The rate at which African states implement the African Court’s decisions, for instance, stands at below 10 per cent, far behind the pace at which the court has been operating lately.

Ever since it started handing down verdicts in June 2011, five years after its inception, the African Court announced 404 decisions, including 240 rulings.

The failure to implement and comply with jurisprudence of African human rights bodies undermines their effectiveness in delivering justice to victims of human rights violations, they observed.

The Vicd President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Modibo Sacko, advised human rights scholars, practitioners, state actors, African Union human rights bodies and judges and staff of the African Court to come up with proposals for solutions adapted to African context, lest they sidestepped the continent’s socio-political realities.

“The picture is not particularly rosy in this area,” Justice Modibo Sacko, the African Court’s Vice President, lamented.

Justice Sacko was addressing human rights scholars, practitioners, state actors, African Union human rights bodies and judges and staff of the African Court who gathered in Arusha to analyse the manner in which the court’s decisions are received, perceived and implemented domestically.

The Centre for Human Rights of the Faculty of Law of the University of Pretoria in South Africa, the African Court and the Coalition for an Effective African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights had jointly organised the two-day meetup.

Justice Sacko advised the forum to come up with proposals for solutions adapted to African context, lest they sidestepped the continent’s socio-political realities. The law should continue playing its role of guiding the proposed solutions, said Justice Sacko, stressing:

“The non-implementation and compliance with jurisprudence of African human rights bodies undermines their effectiveness in delivering justice to victims of human rights violations.”

Professor Nkatha Murungi, the Acting Director of the Centre for Human Rights based in Pretoria, South Africa, called on stakeholders to invest in the effectiveness of the African human rights system, and ultimately in the furtherance of the rights and freedoms of Africans.

The African Court had all along been communicating its decisions to relevant states for execution, but few, if any, reported on the implementation.

The court had, in addition, been highlighting the challenge in its annual activity reports it submits to the Executive Council of the African Union responsible for overseeing implementation of the court’s decisions to no avail.

The African Court had organised a similar conference in Dar es Salaam early in November 2021 which had a meeting of the minds that the low level of implementing the court’s decisions contradicted the African Union’s own commitment to have an effective judicial human rights protection system for the benefit of the people.

The Pretoria-based centre for human rights too held a similar conference in South Africa in September last year, which called on stakeholders to invest in the effectiveness of the African human rights system, and ultimately in the furtherance of the rights and freedoms of Africans.

“We obviously represent different interests, which converge at the goal of the optimum protection of human rights, particularly in the African region,” Professor Nkatha Murungi, the Acting Director of the Centre for Human Rights, said.

Lady Justice Stellah Anukum, of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights reminded African states of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties saying guarding sovereignty was like eating a cake and having it, as it never remained the same once a state ratified an international treaty. PHOTO | SUN NEWS

“As a civil society organisation, we see these decisions as handy tools to support our advocacy and the pursuit of accountability. As litigants, the decisions of the court offer hope and affirmation of dignity,” Prof Murungi explained.

She said the decisions of the African Court were useless unless were fully implemented, as people would not remember what the court said, but rather the result of its pronunciation.

“Execution of the court’s decision is worrisome, by June 9, 2024, only two decisions had been totally implemented,” Lady Justice Stellah Anukum chipped in.

Reminding African states of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties on the sidelines of the meeting, Lady Justice Anukum said guarding sovereignty was like eating a cake and having it, as it never remained the same once a state ratified an international treaty.

Tanzania withdrew the right of individuals and non-governmental organisation to directly file cases at the African Court, contending that the instrument compromised its sovereignty.

Ms Sophia Ebby whose Coalition for Effective African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights she coordinates co-organised the the two-day forum. PHOTO | MODERN GHANA

The host state of the African Court accused the international non-governmental organisation of crossing the line from complementing to subordinating its domestic courts.

The African Court has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the protocol and any other relevant human rights instruments the states ratify.

Barely eight out of 34 African states remain with the special declaration recognising the competence of the African Court to receive cases from individuals and non-governmental organisations, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, and Tunisia.

African states, which have ratified the protocol but have not deposited the instrument yet, are Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, and Guinea Bissau.

Others are Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda and ZambiaΩ

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