Judicial officers and lawyers in Africa have proposed amendments that will give teeth to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights to ensure compliance with its decisions by partner states.
The amendments are targeted at the African Union Treaty that established the Court. The proposal was supported by EAC partner states’ chief justices, and lawyers and representatives of human rights institutions drawn from 44 African Union countries at the Court’s Fifth African Dialogue held in Dar es Salaam recently.
The delegates said the majority of the 31 partner states that have ratified the protocol establishing the Court, have either ignored, failed to comply with or simply wished the Court’s decisions away, even in circumstances where fundamental human rights of its citizens have been violated. There is also rising concern that member states and judges lack awareness of the role and purpose of the Court and its decisions.
“One of the reasons for non-implementation of decisions by the African Court is that the protocol establishing the court is inadequate in many respects,” said Sadiq Shikyil San from the University of Jos, Nigeria.
“For instance, Article 30 merely provides that the state parties to the protocol undertake to implement the decisions of the Court. It does not provide what sanctions should be imposed in the event that the member states who undertake to comply with the decisions fail to implement them.”
In a communique by Robert Eno, the registrar of the Court, the conference recommended the enactment of legislation specifying the procedure on execution of the Courts judgements and designing more active roles for the judiciary and legislature in monitoring the implementation; that the African Union Commission to work closely with the court; and that the judgments should in their enforcement influence the internal legal order of states.
Since the Court was operationalised in 2009, it has received 324 cases.
According to the dean of the Court, Justice Ben Kioko, by October 2021, 127 cases had been finalised, with just 10 percent compliance including judgements on merits and reparations, orders for provisional measures and combined judgments on merits and reparations.
In 18 percent of the cases there was partial compliance with the Court’s judgements and in 75 percent of the applications there was non-compliance with the Courts judgements. And that there has been only 10 percent compliance with the Courts rulings on provisional measures.
“However, as at the year 2020, the level of full compliance with the Court's judgments stood at only 7 percent,” said Justice Kioko.