Author: Sègnonna Horace Adjolohoun
Visiting Professor of international human rights law and comparative African constitutional law, Central European University;
Extraordinary Lecturer, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
Principal Legal Officer, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
This article is a summarised version of a much longer commentary which shall be published subsequently.
The views expressed below are exclusively those of the author and not of the African Court.
THE IMPERATIVE OF SYSTEM-BASED LAW MAKING
When the African Court became operational in 2006, the expectation was that it will affirm the then widely criticised African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights rather than merely “judicialise” the system. The Court therefore bears the historical duty to adopt a system strengthening approach to judicial law-making. As it makes law over the years, it becomes paramount to vet the Court’s pronouncements against that raison d’être. I attempt to do so with respect to its recent decisions.
Substantively, the requests related to a varied range of matters that are both current and novel, ranging from the meaning and scope of the role of the African Union policy organs to ‘consider’ the Activity Report of the African Human Rights Commission to the modalities of litigating the crime of unconstitutional change of government. Unfortunately, the Court did not assert jurisdiction to pronounce itself on the merit of those issues.
Rethinking the North-South divide in international criminal justice: Reflections from an African viewpointPosted: 25 October, 2016
Author: Francis Dusabe
‘Whatever you do for me but without me, you do against me’– Mahatma Gandhi, 1869-1948
More than ever before, Africa is at both sides of the coin; it is the subject of international criminal law because African states have steadfastly stood for the creation of the International Criminal Court and an object of international criminal law because of the unfortunate participation of Africans in atrocities that ravages their continent.
Unlike what many think, Africa has a lot to offer in the development of international criminal law, be it at domestic, regional and international level. Domestically, Africa leads other continents in the nationalisation of international criminal law either through domestication of the Rome Statute or the incorporation of main principles of international criminal law as enshrined in major conventions and treaties in national law.
On 13 October 2013, leaders of African states will meet in Addis Ababa, under the African Union (AU) banner), to consider a possible withdrawal from the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC). African leaders do not find favour with the ICC’s pursuit of Kenya’s “big men”- President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. The AU draws links between the indictment of Kenyatta and Ruto with that of President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and Laurent Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast. Having drawn such links, the AU is of the view that the ICC is a western plot to finish-off African leaders. What is striking of the AU’s ICC analysis is the complete lack of consideration for the victims, 99.9% of whom are Africans. It seems as though grave crimes against humanity are of much less importance when a few “big men” stand accused. What seems to be of extreme importance in the minds of African leaders is that, once again, one of their kind is wanted for crimes against humanity.
African heads of states are rarely united on any issue relevant to development of the continent, such as a common currency, the free movement of people and products, military interventions in war torn regions, etc. However, when it comes to protecting the likes of Bashir and Kenyatta, the AU is zealously united – without regard to the victims of atrocities.
Right to stand for elections as an independent candidate in the African human rights system: The death of the margin of appreciation doctrine?Posted: 19 August, 2013
Although the right to stand for elections is recognised as an essential aspect of the right to political participation, international human rights law does not specifically address the right of individuals to stand for elections as independent candidates, for example, without being a member of and sponsored by a political party. In fact, the only implied reference to independent candidacy is to be found in General Comment No 25 of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the organ in charge of monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to participation. The Committee observes that “[t]he right of persons to stand for election should not be limited unreasonably by requiring candidates to be members of parties or of specific parties” (paragraph 21). What constitutes an “unreasonable” limit to the right of persons to stand for election is not apparent. As a result of the lack of a clear rule, the law and practice in relation to independent candidates varies across borders. In some countries, individuals must be members of political parties to be able to stand for election. In others, they may stand for elections as independent candidates. In some others, independent candidates are allowed in relation to local elections but not in relation to parliamentary and presidential elections.
It is within this context of uncertainty that the African Court had to decide whether the ban on independent candidacy in Tanzania was compatible with the right to equality, the right to political participation, and the right to association in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Tanganyika Law Society and The Legal and Human Rights Centre and Reverend Christopher Mtikila v The United Republic of Tanzania, Applications 009 and 011/2011). This case is interesting in many respects. Firstly, the case presented the African Court the first opportunity to address the margin of appreciation doctrine. Secondly, the application presented a test case to evaluate the trajectory of the African Court towards the jurisprudence of other international and regional human rights organs on similar issues. Thirdly, Tanzania is not the only African country that bans independent candidacy. The decision of the Court therefore has consequences for many other African countries.
Section 1 of the Constitution sets out the founding values of the Republic of South Africa: dignity, equality, human rights, non-racialism, non-sexism, constitutional supremacy, rule of law, regular elections, accountability, responsiveness and openness.
The tragic shootings in Marikana, which took place on 16 August 2012, have led not only to much needed discussion on how equipped and prepared the police are to respond to violent protest, but also discussion about the underlying factors which led to these protests, and why they were so violent. Important questions must be asked about the shootings. Video footage of the incident suggests that it was not a clear cut case of self-defence. Accountability must prevail, both for workers responsible for violence and the police. Hopefully the Commission of Inquiry, established by President Jacob Zuma, will receive a broad mandate to investigate not only the shootings, but also a range of related issues related to what happened before and after.
Should the African Union be accountable and answerable to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights?Posted: 11 July, 2012
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) has recently delivered a judgment in the case of Femi Falana v The African Union. The judgment is rather controversial on various levels. Firstly, the Court decided to interpret Articles 5(3) and 34(6) which, read jointly, imply that individuals or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) can have access to the Court only if the state from which they are has deposited the declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with Article 34(6). This was certainly not the issue in the Falana case. What had to be determined was whether the African Union (AU), which is not a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights or the Protocol establishing the African Court (the Protocol), could be sued and such an interrogation required the interpretation of Articles 3, 30 and 34 (1&4) of the Protocol. Secondly, the Court, at the very onset, failed to consider whether or not it has jurisdiction ratione personae and decided to proceed to judicial consideration of the applications which is procedurally flawed.
AU Assembly should consider human rights implications before adopting the Amending Merged African Court ProtocolPosted: 23 May, 2012
A radical change to the ever-altering African regional judicial landscape is looming large. Meeting in Addis Ababa in mid May 2012, the African Union (AU) ‘Government Experts and Ministers of Justice/Attorneys General on Legal Matters’ adopted the AU – Final Court Protocol – As adopted by the Ministers 17 May (Amending Merged Court Protocol, Exp/Min/IV/Rev.7, 15 May 2012). This draft will in all likelihood serve before the meeting of the AU Heads of State and Government (AU Assembly), to be held in July, in Malawi. If adopted by the AU Assembly, the Protocol will confer upon the to-be-established African Court of Justice and Human Rights the jurisdiction to convict and sentence individuals for international crimes. This paper aims to highlight some concerns, particularly from a human rights angle, about the Amending Merged Court Protocol, in its current form, and argues that the complex implications arising from the suggested amendments require more deliberation and broad inclusive discussion.
Author: Ayalew Getachew Assefa
Lecturer in Law, Makelle University, Ethiopia
Reflections on the Decision of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child concerning the violation of the rights of Nubian children in Kenya
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (the Committee) has recently made a decision on the communication concerning the violation of the rights of Nubian children in Kenya. (Communication 002/2009 Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and Open Society Justice Initiative on behalf of children of Nubian descent in Kenya v Kenya). This body’s first ever decision tells much about the avowed intent of the Committee to address the challenges of the Nubian children as it goes a great length despite the continuous disregard of cooperation from the government of Kenya. In its well-articulated decision, the Committee finds the Government of Kenya in violation of the right to non-discrimination, nationality, health and health services, protection against statelessness and education of Nubian Children living in Kenya. Addressing a wide range of issues, the Committee even goes beyond what was requested by the applicant and interpreted Article 31 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter) in the light of the issues raised (para 66).