Sunday, May 15, 2011

Protection of human rights no longer a ‘half-hearted’ business

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The Vice President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights Honorable Justice Sophia A.B Akuffo has said that the success of the Court as a human rights protection mechanism would require a 100 percent ratification of the Protocol by Member States.
Speaking at the 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right in Banjul, The Gambia, he said this will require their acceptance of the competence of the Court by making the Declaration under Article 34(6).
“This “universal” ratification will give the court the legitimacy it needs to effectively discharge its mandate. It will also demonstrate the commitment of State Parties to the protection of human rights and bring renewed hope to the people of Africa, that perhaps, the protection of Human Rights is no longer a half-hearted business as usual,” he said.
According to him, anything short of 100 percent ratification will limit the jurisdiction of the African Court and the legitimacy of the protection system, as some Member States would not benefit from the “insurance cover” the Court is established to provide where the remedies available from the African Commission are adequate.
He note that the effective protection of human rights on the continent requires the involvement of all key stakeholders, including the general population, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), National Human Rights Institutions and African Union (AU) Member States.
For reasons of political and diplomatic relationships, Justice Akuffo said Member States are reluctant to bring each other before an international human rights Court or Tribunal. Thus, the responsibility for shaping and nurturing a credible human rights system and instructive human rights jurisprudence rests with human rights advocates like NGOs, Bar Associations and national human rights bodies.
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Justice Akuffo recognises the pivotal role of the African Commission as the “principal source” of cases to the African Court, and believes that through the relationship built over the past years, there is enough reason for an assurance that the Commission and the Court will not suffer the fate of other regional human right systems.
He said other regional human rights systems where marred by competition rather than cooperation at their initial years to the detriment of their mutual stakeholders.
“Indeed, we are not rivals, but rather, complementary organizations, established to work hand-in-hand to protect human rights,” he said of the relationship between the Commission and the Court.
Adding that they recognize that the Commission has powers to do things which the Court can never do, and the Court has powers to do things which Commission has never been able to do.
He explained that the Protocol establishing the Court gives the Commission unlimited access to the Court, whereas individuals and NGOs may only access the court directly upon the deposit by states of a declaration permitting them to do so.
The court has been ready to receive cases since the adoption of its Interim Rules of Procedure and the recruitment of Registry Staff in 2008. With the adoption and entry into force of the new rules of procedure of the Commission, the way is now open for cases to be referred from the Commission to the Court, he added. Source - The Voice

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