, ARUSHA, Tanzania Nov 15 – The African Court on Human and People’s Rights is preparing to mark its tenth anniversary which will be held next week.
The court’s Communication’s chief Sukhdev Chhatbar said preparations are on top gear for the celebrations to mark a decade in protecting human rights in the continent.
“All is set with a number of activities lined up ahead of the main event,” Chhartbar said of the event set for November 21-22 in Arusha, Tanzania.
Top on the list of invited guests include representatives from the African Union Commission, government delegations including from the host country Tanzania, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Coalition for an Effective African Court; Network of African NHRIs (NANHRI), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child among others.
The court’s President Justice Sylvain Ore said he is pleased with the achievements of the court so far since its establishment ten years ago.
“Within a decade of its operationalisation, the African Court has already brought about renewed hope and optimism within the African human rights system, and positioned itself as a veritable instrument in the quest for regional integration, peace, unity, good governance, respect for human rights and development,” the judge said.
He said the continental court had charted a viable path for the protection of human and peoples’ rights since becoming operational in 2006.
Justice Ore is particularly pleased that “jurisprudence of the African Court within this period reinforced the widely held view that respect for human rights provided a foundation upon which rested the political structures of human and peoples’ freedoms.”
Justice Ben Kioko who is the court’s Vice President continued to urge countries in the continent to file a declaration recognizing the competence of the Court to receive cases from NGOs and individuals.
Even though 30 African countries have ratified the protocol establishing the court, only eight have made the declaration allowing their individual citizens and NGO’s to directly file cases.
“Other than ratifying the protocol, countries should also make the declaration. It is absolutely important,” Justice Kioko told Capital FM News in a recent interview and dismissed fears by most countries that they will face a plethora of cases once they file the declaration.
“The fear of countries that filing the declaration will have them inundated with cases is false and unfounded,” he said, citing the example of Ghana which filed the declaration but no case has been filed against it by its citizens or NGOs to date.
Kenya is among 30 countries that have ratified the protocol establishing the Arusha, Tanzania-based court but is yet to file the declaration.
“We will continue to hold consultations with Kenyan officials while urging them to file the declaration because this will improve the country’s jurisprudence on issues of human rights,” Justice Kioko said.
A case by the minority Ogiek community is pending at the African Court where it was referred by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 2012 because they could file it directly.
The community has sued the Kenyan government for evicting them from their ancestral land under the auspices of a notice to conserve the forest as a ’reserved water catchment zone’.
The Ogiek argue that their eviction will have far reaching consequences on their political, social and economic survival.
There are a total of 126 cases filed at the African Court, seventy of them from Tanzania.