The African Court on Human and Peoples’Rights has published a documentary with information on the African Court, its role and mandate. It can be found here
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is mandated to oversee the observance of the African Charter on Humanand Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and other human rights instruments applicable in Africa, such as the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child or the so called Women’s Protocol. It was established in 2006, by a Protocol to the African Charter, which is binding on the states which have signed it. So far, 26 out of the 54 member states of the Africa Union (AU) have ratified the Protocol, thus recognizing the African Court. Rulings by the African Court are binding on the states which have recognized the Court.
The mandate of the African Court complements the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is the body established by the African Charter to ensure its observance. Both institutions can refer cases to each other on certain conditions.
The jurisdiction of the African Court comprises advisory opinions and contentious matters.
- advisory opinions
Any member state of the AU, the AU or any of its organs as well as any organization recognized by the AU may request the African Court to provide an opinion on legal matters regarding the interpretation of the African Charter or other relevant human rights instrument. The African Court did not have an opportunity yet to examine the notion ‘organization recognized by the AU’ yet.
- contentious matters
In addition to that, the African Court has jurisdiction in individual cases. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, states involved in litigation before the African Commission or states whose citizens have been victims of human rights violations or intergovernmental may submit cases to the Court.
States which have ratified the Protocol establishing the African Court may deposit a declaration to the effect that they recognize the Court’s jurisdiction in individual cases. If a state has made this declaration, individuals may initiate a case against this state alleging that it has failed to comply with the African Charter or other human rights instruments applicable in Africa. To date, six member states of the African Union have deposited the declaration allowing individual applications.
Structure and Organisation
The African Court has its seat in Arusha, Tanzania; it comprises of 11 judges. The judges are elected for a term of six years, which may be renewed once. Apart from the President of the Court, who is based in Arusha, judges serve on a part time basis. The African Court has four ordinary sessions per year, which last for two weeks. In addition to this, extra-ordinary session may be scheduled.
The judges are supported by the Registry, which provides administrative support, conducts legal research as requested etc.