The recent decision by the government of the Republic of Rwanda to withdraw its article 34(6) declaration of the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol) represents a significant setback for human rights protection in the country and across Africa.
As members of African and international civil society we have a vested interest in ensuring a strong and independent African human rights architecture to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights on the continent. The ability for individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to file cases directly before the African Court – the principal human rights tribunal on the continent – significantly reduces barriers of entry for survivors and victims of human rights violations seeking redress and significantly increases the capacity of the Court to carry out its crucial mandate.
Previously Rwanda had been commended for being one of the first states to accept the jurisdiction of the African Court to hear cases brought directly by individuals and NGOs. However, particularly at a time when African states are demanding “African solutions to African problems” this unprecedented decision to withdraw an article 34(6) declaration and the Rwandan government’s failure to subsequently participate in proceedings before the Court substantially undermines region-wide efforts to strengthen African human rights institutions and sends an alarming message about the Rwandan government’s commitment to justice and human rights in general.
We call upon the African Union and all African states committed to the continued development of the African Human Rights System to join us in urging the Rwandan government to retract its withdrawal of its article 34(6) declaration; and we call upon all African states to strengthen the African Court’s role for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights throughout the continent by ratifying the existing Protocol and depositing declarations allowing individual and NGOs direct access to the Court.