The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Court) is a continental court established by African countries to ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. It complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.
The Court 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, (the Protocol) which was adopted by Member States of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in June 1998. The Protocol came into force on 25 January 2004.
As at March 2017, only seven (7) of the thirty (30) States Parties to the Protocol had made the declaration recognizing the competence of the Court to receive cases from NGOs and individuals. The seven (7) States are; Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi and Tanzania. The 30 States which have ratified the Protocol are: Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.
The Court has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, (the Charter), the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned. Specifically, the Court has two types of jurisdiction: contentious and advisory.
The Court is composed of eleven Judges, nationals of Member States of the African Union. The first Judges of the Court were elected in January 2006 in Khartoum, Sudan. They were sworn in before the 7th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union on 2 July 2006, in Banjul, the Gambia. The Judges of the Court are elected, after nomination by their respective States, in their individual capacities, from among African jurists of proven integrity and of recognized practical, judicial or academic competence and experience in the field of human rights. The Judges are elected for a six year term, renewable once. The Judges of the Court elect from among themselves, a President and Vice-President of the Court who serve a two year term. They can be re-elected only once. The President of the Court resides and works on a full time basis at the seat of the Court, while the other ten (10) Judges work on a part-time basis. In the accomplishment of his/her duties, the President is assisted by a Registrar who performs registry, managerial and administrative functions of the Court.
The Court officially started its operations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2006, and in August 2007 it moved to its seat in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania. Between 2006 and 2008, the Court dealt principally with operational and administrative issues, including the development of the structure of the Court's Registry, preparation of its budget and drafting of its Interim Rules of Procedure. In 2008, during the Court's Ninth Ordinary Session, the Court adopted the Interim Rules of Court, pending consultation with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in order to harmonize their rules. This harmonization process was completed in April 2010, and in June 2010, the Court adopted its Final Rules of Court.
The Court may receive cases filed by the African Commission of Human and Peoples’ Rights, State parties to the Protocol or African Intergovernmental Organizations. Non-Governmental Organizations with observer status before the African Commission and individuals can also institute cases directly before the Court as long as the state against which they are complaining has deposited the Article 34(6) declaration recognizing the jurisdiction of the Court to accept cases from individuals and NGOs.
The Court delivered its first judgment in 2009. As at March 2017, the Court had received 124 applications and finalized 32 cases. Currently, the Court has 92 pending cases and 4 Requests for advisory opinion.