African Court urged to hear cases on elections

November 29, 2016 12:06 pm
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Delegates from across Africa follow proceedings at a symposium celebrating 10 years of AFCHPR/BERNARD MOMANYI
Delegates from across Africa follow proceedings at a symposium celebrating 10 years of AFCHPR/BERNARD MOMANYI

, ARUSHA, Tanzania, Nov 29 – The African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) has been urged to consider hearing cases that have a bearing on the outcome of impending elections on the continent.

The call was among recommendations from the symposium to mark 10 years of AfCHPR’s existence, held in Arusha Tanzania last week.

“The court was also urged to consider providing for accelerated procedures or hearings to take care of emergency situations e.g. cases that have a bearing on the outcome of impending elections,” a communiqué from the symposium reads in part.

Currently, cases arising from election petitions are only heard within member countries in line with the respective countries laws.

“The court was also urged to refine its approach to assessing whether exhaustion of local remedies can go beyond a technical approach,” the communiqué added.

As currently constituted, individuals and Non-Governmental Organisations cannot file cases directly if their respective countries have not deposited a declaration under Article 34 (6), even if they ratified the protocol establishing the Arusha-based court.

According to Justice Sylvain Ore who heads the continental court, only 30 countries have ratified the protocol out of the 54 in the continent, and he continues to urge more countries to join in.

The states which have so far ratified the protocol include Kenya, Chad, Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana and Libya.

Others are Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Niger, Uganda, Rwanda, The Republic of Arab Sahrawi, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo and Tunisia.

But it is only eight states that have so far complied in making the declaration that allows NGOs and individuals to file cases directly; Tanzania, Rwanda, Mali, Malawi, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso with many thought to ride on the fear that it could open a floodgate for human rights abuses suits given the worst record in the continent.

As part of an assurance to such fears, delegates attending the symposium urged the court to “also define the concept of ‘interest’ that it requires of NGOs that have standing to file matters before it, in addition to the Observer Status before the Commission.”

“The court was also urged to refine its approach to assessing whether exhaustion of local remedies and go beyond a technical approach,” the communiqué from the symposium states.

On challenges facing the court, it was noted that there is need for it to consider developing a policy on voluntary contributions from Member States to fund specific initiatives other than for payment of Judges and staff emoluments and the court’s statutory activities.

“The court was urged to consider requesting member states to second experts to work with the Registry of the Court on specific projects building on similar initiatives that it already has in place, such as its internship programme,” the statement added.

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