Tunisian citizens and non-governmental organizations operating in the country can now file cases directly at the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) based in Arusha, Tanzania.
The declaration was signed last week when the court’s President Justice Sylvain Oré led a delegation to Tunis.
Receiving the delegation at the State House in Tunis, Tunisia President Beji Caid Essebsi, emphasized the need to popularise the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the continent to enable African citizens know about its lofty objectives and activities.
President Essebsi commended the creation of the court, adding that its establishment guarantees protection of human rights in Africa.
“In that way, African human rights will be protected and ensure sustained democratic progress of our people,” he told the delegation, which also included judges Rafa Ben Achour and Chafika Bensaoula.
He called for extensive dissemination of information on the court to enable the population to know, understand and appreciate the court’s existence and its noble work to deepen democratic processes on the continent.
The AfCHPR president thanked the Tunisian Government for agreeing to host the court’s delegation, meet key officials and also conduct a sensitization seminar for stakeholders in Tunis.
Justice Oré also lauded Tunisia’s decision to sign the Article 34(6) declaration that enables Non-Governmental Organisations 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.
The Tunisia declaration was signed on behalf of the government by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Khemaies Jhinaoui.
Tunisia becomes the eighth country to sign the declaration.
Other countries that have previously signed it are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali and Tanzania while Kenya, even though a member of the court, is yet to sign the declaration.
Rwanda, which had signed it, formally withdrew from the declaration last month, although the African Union Summit has urged the East African country to reconsider its position.
The AfCHPR delegation visited the Arab Republic of Egypt from 9-11 April 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 sensitization visits have 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 has carried out continent-wide promotion programmes which have so far seen it undertake 27 sensitisation visits and hold12 regional and continental seminars and conferences.
The main objective of the sensitization visits is to enhance the protection of human rights in Africa.
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 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 have ratified it and only eight State Parties to the Protocol have made the declaration under Article 34(6).
The success of the Court as a human rights protection mechanism requires much wider ratification of the Protocol by Member States, as well as 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. As at March 2017, the Court received 133 applications. It has finalized 32 cases. The Court is composed of 11Judges, nationals of Member States of the African Union elected in their individual capacity.