, NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 14 – Newly elected Vice President of the African Court Ben Kioko has urged Kenya and other 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 a protocol establishing the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AFCHPR), 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 an interview in Arusha last week, 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.
Justice Kioko was elected Vice President in elections held two weeks ago, during which Justice Sylvain Ore from Ivory Coast was elected President.
The Kenyan Judge says they intend to transform the court, which implementing its strategic plan.
“This is a resolve we have made and we have already set out time-lines,” he said.
Their immediate task, he said, is to open up the court to the public.
“The issue having everything in court to be confidential will end. The only confidential matters are judges deliberations during cases,” he said, “We will also improve the court’s website by ensuring all the relevant materials are available real-time and this includes all the translations,” he said.