A handbook recently launched by Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), entitled, “An analysis of basic human rights documents applicable in Sierra Leone,” has comprehensively scrutinized the African Court for human and peoples’ rights.
The book, which was financed under a Justice Sector Development Project (JSDP), explains that the only mechanism created by the African Charter to supervise State Parties’ compliance with the African Charter is the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission).
The handbook furthers that the Commission’s mandate includes promotional activities, protective activities, State Parties reports and the interpretation of the African Charter. “The African Commission does not however have sufficient protective powers though it does have an elaborate promotional mandate under the African Charter,” it states. “The African Charter does not provide for enforceable remedies.”
The handbook reveals that the main objective for the creation of the African Court is to complement and reinforce the protective mandate of the African Commission and to interpret the African Charter.
Highlighting reasons for the Court establishment, the handbook notes the establishment of the African Court will have jurisdiction over cases referred to it by the African Commission, States that are complainants or respondents to a complaint before the African Commission, States that have an interest in a case, African inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with observer status at the African Commission and individuals in cases against State Parties that have made a declaration in terms of Article 34(6) of the Protocol of the African Court.
According to the handbook, in determining the admissibility of cases brought before it, the African Court is required to take into consideration the provisions of Art 56 of the African Charter. Also, as much as is possible, the African Court is required to conduct its proceedings in public unless as may be provided for in the Court’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence. In compliance with fair trial rights, the African Court’s Protocol provides for legal representation by a party before the African Court and for free legal representation where the interest of justice so requires. Persons appearing before the African Court are assured the fullest protection and all facilities as provided for by international law, necessary for discharge of their functions, tasks and duties, whether as witnesses, representatives or howsoever.
“The African Court would also have the jurisdiction to hear cases challenging violations of human and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed under the African Charter and the Protocol on the establishment of an African Court and relevant human rights instruments” the handbook states.
By Ophaniel Gooding