Great news for the fight against impunity on the African continent: The African Court on human and peoples’ rights will enter into force on 25 January 2004

Press release
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The International federation for human rights (FIDH) is pleased to learn about the establishment of the African court on human and peoples’ rights (ACHPR), which marks an historical step in the fight against impunity on the continent.

The deposit by the Union of Comores on 26 December 2003 of the 15th instrument of ratification of the Additional Protocol relating to the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which governs the organisation, competence and functioning of the Court, enables the entry into force of the ACHPR on 25 January 2004.
To date, the other members States are Algeria, Rwanda, Togo, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Lybia, Lesotho. The FIDH calls upon the other African States to ratify as soon as possible the Additional Protocol.

« The Court will enhance the African Union’s commitment to the realisation of human rights and fundamental values of tolerance, solidarity , gender equality, and humanitarian issues in the continent », declared Professor Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairperson of the AU Commission.

The FIDH hopes that the scope of jurisdiction of the Court and the ways in which cases are brought will enable victims of human rights violations who cannot be heard before national courts to finally enjoy their right to effective remedies.

According to Article 3 of the Additional Protocol, the Court is competent for all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter (which includes both civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights), of this Protocol and of any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned.

The Court shall be triggered by the African commission of human and peoples’ rights, States parties and African inter-governmental organisations. The FIDH recalls that, according to its Statute, the ACHPR enables individuals and non-governmental organisations with observer status before the Commission to directly institute cases before it, if domestic remedies are exhausted and only if the State at stake gives its autorisation by making a declaration under Article 34(6) of the Protocol.
Therefore, the FIDH calls upon States parties to make such a declaration so that this mechanism be a real tool for victims of human rights violations to fight against impunity.

Finally, the FIDH recalls that the effective and independent exercise of the Court, as well as the place of victims before this organ will not only depend on the elections of judges which is foreseen to be held next July at the conference of States leaders of the AU, but also on the texts which will complement the Protocol, like the internal rules of the Court. The FIDH, a member of the Committee of Coalition of the ACHPR, wishes vigorously that NGOs be part in the drafting of such texts.

Considering that the guarantee of peace and security leads inevitably to the fight against impunity and the unconditional respect of human rights, the establishment of the ACHPR is a bearer of hopes for the African continent.

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