Tunisian President mobilises support for African Court

President Beji Caid Essebsi of the Republic of Tunisia, has tasked the leadership of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) to popularise their mandate to enable African citizens know about its lofty objectives and activities.

“In that way, African human rights will be protected and ensure sustained democratic progress of our people,” President Essebsi stated during a courtesy by Justice Sylvain Oré, President of the African Court at the State House in Tunis.

The Tunisian President stressed the importance of popularising the work of the Court in AU Member States.

He however commended the creation of the African Court, adding that its establishment guaranteed protection of human rights in Africa.

The African Court delegation included Justice Rafa Ben Achour and Lady Justice Chafika Bensaoula.

President Essebsi called for extensive dissemination of information on the African Court to enable the population to know, understand and appreciate its existence and its noble work to deepen democratic processes on the continent.

Justice Ore expressed gratitude to the Tunisian government for agreeing to host the Court’s delegation, provide the platform for meeting key officials and also conduct a sensitisation seminar for stakeholders in Tunis.

He also lauded Tunisia’s decision to sign the Article 34(6) declaration that enabled non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals to access the Court directly.

“I hail the government of Tunisia on this decision and urge other African countries to follow suit,” Justice Oré stated.

Tunisia has officially signed the declaration becoming the eighth country to do so. Other countries that had previously signed it are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania.

Rwanda, which had signed, formally withdrew from the declaration last month, although the African Union Summit had urged the East African country to reconsider its position.

The declaration was signed on behalf of the Tunisian government by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Khemaies Jhinaoui.

The African Court delegation also visited the Arab Republic of Egypt from April 9 to 11 and held discussions with various key dignitaries, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Speaker of Parliament, among others.

Egypt, which has not ratified the establishment of the Court, however, expressed its appreciation of the Court’s work for the past 10 years and is giving consideration to ratifying the protocol.

“The visit to Egypt has been very much encouraging and we are looking forward to the North African country ratifying the Protocol,” said Justice Oré.

According to Justice Oré, the sensitisation visits had helped to raise awareness of the Court’s existence and also to encourage more AU Member States to ratify the Protocol and make the declaration to allow individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court.

“For the Court to achieve its objectives and further strengthen African human-rights systems, a greater number of countries must ratify the protocol and make the declaration under Article 34(6),” he said.

Since December 2010, the Court had carried out continent-wide promotion programmes, which had so far undertaken 27 sensitisation visits and held 12 regional and continental seminars and conferences.

The main objective of the sensitisation visits was to enhance the protection of human rights in Africa.

Specific objectives include; raising public awareness about the Court, encouraging the ratification of the protocol and depositing of the declaration that allows individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court.

It also included sensitising would-be applicants on how to access the Court and the procedures before the Court, encouraging the public to utilise the Court in settling human-rights disputes and encouraging the utilisation of the Court for advisory opinions.

The African 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.

Since the adoption of the Protocol in June 1998, 30 of 55 AU Member States had ratified it and only eight State Parties to the Protocol had made the declaration under Article 34(6).

As at March 2017, the Court had received 133 applications and finalised 32 cases.

The Court is composed of 11 Judges, nationals of Member States of the African Union elected in their individual capacity.