BISSAU, Guinea Bissau, Aug 16 – Guinea Bissau President José Mário Vazhas has pledged to ratify the protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) “very soon.”
“My commitment is to guarantee basic human rights in my country,” President Vazhas told a delegation from the AfCHPR mission led by its President Justice Sylvain Oré who were on a sensitization mission in Bissau.
The West African country was among the first in 1998 to sign the protocol for its establishment but is yet to ratify it.
During the talks, the Guinea Bissau president expressed satisfaction over the objectives behind the establishment of the African Court, adding that human rights issues are fundamental to achieving socio-economic development in African countries.
The AfCHPR mission, which comprised Justices Ben Kioko and Angelo Matusse and the registry staff, also paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister Umaro Sissoco Embaló, who said that relevant authorities would prepare documents for submission to the National Assembly for ratification of the African Court Protocol.
”I am a strong believer in Pan-Africanism and will do whatever possible to strengthen AU organs and institutions,” the PM emphasized, adding ”I will be an Ambassador for the Court.”
The African Court mission also held talks with the country’s Chief Justice, the Minister for Public Affairs, the First Vice President of the National Assembly, the Bar Association, the Guinea Bissau National Commission on Human Rights among others.
The mission held a one-day seminar which brought together about 100 stakeholders with the aim of promoting the Court and its activities.
The Guinea Bissau Minister for State in charge of Council of Ministers and Parliamentary Affairs Soares Sambú reassured the participants that the government attached very high importance to issues of human rights.
The African Court president on his part said that in order for the Court to achieve its objectives, there is a need for more countries to ratify the protocol and deposit the declaration that allows access to the court by Non-Governmental Organisations and individuals.
So far, 30 out of 55 AU member states have ratified the protocol, and only eight countries have made a declaration under Article 34(6) that allows access to the Court by Non-Governmental Organisations and individuals.
The eight countries are: Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Tunisia.
The African Court undertook similar sensitizations to the Arab Republic of Egypt and Republic of Tunisia in April this year which resulted in Tunisia depositing a declaration allowing NGOs and individuals to access the court, whereas Egypt expressed its willingness to work towards the ratification of the protocol establishing the court.
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) was established by virtue of Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with a view to enhancing the protection of human rights on the continent.