Burundi Must Guarantee Individuals and NGOs Access to the African Court

Press release

As the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights today begins a sensitization mission in Burundi, FIDH and its member organisation, the Ligue ITEKA, call on the national authorities to seize this opportunity to make firm commitments in favour of access to justice for victims of human rights violations.

In particular, our organisations call on Burundi to make a declaration under Article 34.6 of the Protocol establishing the African Court, thus enabling individuals and NGOs in Burundi to have direct access to the Court where domestic remedies have been exhausted in respect of State responsibility for human rights violations. In the absence of such a declaration, only the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), other States Parties to the Protocol and African intergovernmental organisations may, under specific conditions, seize the Court in respect of human rights violations perpetrated in Burundi. “It is time for Burundi, a State Party to the Protocol establishing the Court since 2003, to honour its commitments by contributing to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Court. These two requirements necessarily require respect for the right to access to justice for victims of violations, which implies a declaration under Article 34.6”, declared Jospeh Ndayizye, President of ITEKA.

The adoption, in 1998, of the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was a major step forward for the protection of fundamental rights. Operational since early 2009, the Court is mandated to monitor compliance by its States Parties, with the provisions contained in African and international human rights instruments. This jurisdictional body, whose decisions are binding, is in this sense complementary to the ACHPR whose protection mandate it reinforces.

However, over 10 years after the adoption of the Protocol establishing the Court, only half of African states have ratified it, and only five of these have made an Article 34.6 declaration to date [1]. The small proportion of states allowing NGOs and individuals to bring their cases directly before the Court seriously undermines the effectiveness of this body despite a clear appetite for its establishment. Thus, the Court’s first decision in 2009 in a case involving Senegal, resulted in a declaration of incompetence. The Court has since received 14 litigation requests and declined jurisdiction in most of the cases disposed of to date.

FIDH Representative to the African Union, Mabassa Fall, declared: "The optimism about having an African mechanism mandated to provide justice to victims of human rights violations has unfortunately been replaced by disappointment generated by the lack of real commitment of African states towards a Court that is truly protective. In this regard, a declaration under Article 34.6 by a State such as Burundi, whose population has had to deal with often serious human rights violations, seems essential to strengthening the rule of law in this country".

Read more