Burundi must ensure that individuals and NGOs have access to the African Court

Press release
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While the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights begins its sensitization mission to Burundi today, FIDH and its member organisation, the Burundese League of Human Rights (ITEKA), call the Burundese authorities to take this opportunity to firmly commit to promoting access to justice for victims of human rights violations.

In particular, our organisations call on Burundi to finally make the declaration under Article 34.6 of the Protocol establishing the African Court to allow individuals and NGOs in Burundi to have a direct access to this authority to denounce the State responsibility in cases of human rights violations when all domestic remedies have been exhausted. 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 inter-governmental organisations may, under certain conditions, appeal to the Court on a case of human rights violations committed in Burundi. "It is time that Burundi, a State party to the Protocol since 2003, honors its commitment to contribute to the Court’s effectiveness and efficiency, which require `respect for the right to access to justice by victims of violations, one of which is the direct extension declaration under section 34.6, " said Joseph Ndayizeye, ITEKA President.

The 1998 adoption of the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) was a major step forward for the protection of fundamental rights. Operational since early 2009, the Court is mandated to ensure that States parties to the Protocol comply with the provisions contained in both African and international instruments for the protection of human rights. This judicial body, whose decisions are binding, complements the ACHPR by reinforcing its protection mandate.

However, nearly 10 years after the adoption of the Protocol, only half of African states have ratified it, and only five [1] have made the declaration under Article 34.6. This low number of States allowing individuals and NGOs to appeal directly to the Court seriously undermines the effectiveness of the Court, even though it is desired and has been implemented by States. Thus, the first decision by the Court in 2009, in a case involving Senegal, has resulted in a declaration of incompetence. The Court has since received 14 contentious requests and declared itself incompetent in the majority of cases it has already addressed.

"The optimism about the prospect of a judicial body that would provide African victims of violations of human rights recourse has unfortunately given way to disappointment at the lack of concrete commitment by African States for a Court that can provide true protection. Therefore, the declaration under Article 34.6 made by a State such as Burundi, whose populations have had to deal with human rights violations, often serious, seems essential to strengthening the rule of law in that country, " said Mabassa Fall, FIDH Representative to the African Union.

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