Africa Urged to Make Stronger Commitments to Human Rights Issues
Africa has to make more stronger commitments to human rights issues if the continent is to make economic and democratic advances and benefit from its positive spin-offs, according to the President of the African Court for Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR) Justice Augustino Ramadhani.
In his opening remarks at the national sensitization seminar on the promotion of the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights in Addis Ababa, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on 20 November, 2014, the AfCHPR President added that the success of Africa's Agenda 2063 would depend largely on the importance given to the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human and peoples' rights on the continent.
"History teaches us that respect for human rights, the promotion of human development and the consolidation of peace, coupled with good political and economic governance are conditions sine qua non for any meaningful development," he told over 100 delegates drawn from government, African Ambassadors, diplomatic community, non-government organizations, lawyers, students, media and human rights organizations and activists, among others.
He called for continental support for the Arusha, Tanzania-based AfCHPR, the only judicial arm of the African Union (AU). "The effectiveness of the Court requires the support of all stakeholders, in particular, member states of the AU," Justice Ramadhani said.
He noted that since the Protocol establishing the Court was adopted in 1998, only 28 of the 54 AU member states have ratified it, adding that out of these, only seven countries have made declarations allowing individuals and NGOs to bring cases directly to the Court. These are: Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda and hosts United Republic of Tanzania.
The Director General, International Legal Affairs Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr Reta Alemu Nega stated in his official opening address that Africa has now stood up to its responsibilities in the promotion and protection of human rights.
"Steps have been taken over the last five decades to introduce legislative and institutional frameworks in relation to human rights. One of the achievements in this regard is the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the creation of the African Commission to follow up on the implementation," he said.
The increasing awareness of the African people on the African Human Rights System, he stressed, was a significant step in strengthening the protection mechanism put in place.
The President of the Lawyers Association of Ethiopia, Mr Wendimagegnehu Gabre-Sellasie emphasized that in order for the Court to achieve its objectives, it has to work hand in hand with member states, state parties to the Charter and the Pprotocol, professional associations, among other stakeholders.
He also noted that the success of the Court as a human rights protection mechanism would require a wider ratification of the Protocol, as well as acceptance of the competence of the Court, by making the Declaration.
Later, Justice Gerald Niyungeko from Burundi, member and former President of the Court, made a detailed presentation on the Court and responded to myriad of questions in the one-day session which was chaired by the Vice-President of the Court, Lady Justice Elsie Thompson from Nigeria.
A delegation of the Court also paid courtesy calls on senior government officials of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, including the Minister for Justice, the House of Representatives, Federal Supreme Court and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to brief on the work of the Court and encourage the country to ratify the Protocol.African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (Arusha)