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African Court president urges judicial cooperation in protecting human rights

President Museveni (left) receives a plaque from the President of the African Court Hon Justice Sylvain Oré (right)/CFM

KAMPALA, Uganda, Oct 31 – The African Court has called for judicial cooperation among member states across the continent to enhance service delivery while protecting human rights.

Justice Sylvain Ore, who heads the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) told the ongoing Fourth Judicial Dialogue in Uganda’s capital, Kampala that solidarity and judicial cooperation is key in dispensing justice.

“Because of the challenges facing us, our solidarity must not only be cloaked in legal exchanges,” he said, “it must also be humane.”

The African Court is holding a judicial dialogue, bringing together Chief Justices, among them Kenya’s David Maraga and other judges from Africa as well as other legal scholars.

“What is true of national courts is also true of the regional courts and also of their reciprocal relations,” said Justice Ore, “Their legal corpus has common legal sources.”

Justice Ore told the meeting, officiated by President Yoweri Museveni, that the presentation of good practices by the Heads of Courts and Jurisdictions is imperative.

“To implement our objectives, we have now made it our credo to share jurisprudence and good processes,” he said, and emphasised on the need for judicial education in Africa on means and ways of establishing a model African justice network, the use of information technology in the judicial system and the use of regional court decisions by national courts in Africa.”

The African Union Commission, which was represented at the meeting by its Deputy Chairman Thomas Kwesi Quartey, urged member states to always implement decisions and recommendations made by all African Union organs with a human rights mandate.

Citing the African Court, which is yet to have all countries ratify its Protocol and deposit the Declaration required, Quartey said many African countries do not implement decisions made by the court and other recommendations by AU organs.

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“I would like to seize this opportunity to call on our member States to ratify, domesticate and implement all AU human rights and shared values,” he said Wednesday, at the opening of the session.

Composed of 11 judges, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) is based in Arusha, Tanzania and was established under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights that was adopted on June 9 1998 in Burkina Faso. It came into force on January 25, 2004.

President Museveni posses with members of the African Court during the Fourth Judicial Dialogue in Uganda’s capital, Kampala/CFM

So far, 30 countries, including Kenya, have ratified the Protocol but only nine have deposited the Declaration required under Article 34(6) of the Protocol to allow NGOs and individuals to access the Court directly.

By ratifying the Protocal, Quartey said, “it will provide the political support that is needed to build a human rights system that is effective and strong.”

President Yoweri Museveni, who officiated the opening, said, human rights in Africa cannot be achieved fully unless traditional issues are addressed.

“All these can be addressed after dealing with the problem of nature and challenges facing man by fellow man and nature,” he said, citing oppression among others.

Apart from the common issues on human rights, he said, “we should start looking at issues to do with nature and appreciate the long journey man has transformed through.”

The Judicial Dialogue is a biennial event of the African Union aimed at improving networking among judicial officers, the exchange of information and best practices and the proper administration of justice on the continent.

The theme of this year’s Dialogue is: Tackling Contemporary Human Rights Issues: The Role of the Judiciary in Africa, and is a build-up to the themes of the other three editions held in 2013, 2015 2017.

“The past three meetings have reaffirmed the importance of the Dialogue as a platform for African national judiciaries to discuss opportunities and continuing challenges relating to their functions,” said Justice Oré, the President of the AfCHPR.

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The Chairperson of the Uganda National Organizing Committee, Esta Nambayo, said the overall objective of Uganda hosting the Dialogue is to “enhance international judicial cooperation through sharing of Judiciary challenges and best practices among states across Africa and beyond.”

The Dialogue is preceded by the first meeting of the International Human Rights Forum from 28 to 29 October in Kampala. This meeting which is hosted by the African Court will be attended by the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights under the theme, “Operationalising the International Human Rights Forum and Enhancing Jurisprudential Dialogue.”

AfCHPR is a Continental Court established by the Member States of the African Union, to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. The Court commenced its operations in 2006, and has its permanent seat in Arusha, Tanzania.

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