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How was the Court established?
What is the Court's Mandate?
What is the composition of the Court?
What is the Court's Jurisdiction?
Who can make an Application to the Court?
What are the Court's official Languages?
What are the directions to guide litigants?
How to file an Application to the Court?
What are the conditions for sending an Application ?
Which is the applicable Law for the Court?
What is the nature of the Court’s findings?
How long does the Court take to render a Judgment?
What are the Relationship between the African Court and the Commission?
Does Court Deal Criminal Matters?
 
 
How was the Court Established?
The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights was established by the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (Court's Protocol). The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Charter) is the main African human rights instrument that sets out the rights and duties relating to human and peoples' rights. The Charter establishes the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (Commission), which is a quasi-judicial body that monitors the implementation of the Charter.
In 1998, the 34th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union), meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, adopted the Court's Protocol. This Protocol entered into force on 25 January 2004, paving the way for the operationalisation of the Court.
 
What is the Court's Mandate?
The Court's mission is to complement and reinforce the functions of the Commission in promoting and protecting human and peoples' rights, freedoms and duties in African Union Member States. The Commission, being a quasi-judicial body can only make recommendations  while the Court makes binding decisions.
 
What is the Composition of the Court?
The Court is composed of eleven (11) Judges, nationals of Member States of the African Union elected in an individual capacity. The Judges are elected by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union for a period of six (6) years and may be reelected only once. For the purposes of continuity, the incepting Judges are allocated a term of two, four and six years and if thereafter they are elected, their second term will be for six years. All Judges except the President perform their functions on a part-time basis. The Court meets four times a year in Ordinary Sessions lasting two weeks each and in Extra-Ordinary Sessions as necessary.
 
What is the Court's Jurisdiction?
The Court has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it regarding the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Court's Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the concerned States.
 
•    Advisory Jurisdiction
The Court may, at the request of a Member State of the African Union, any of the organs of the African Union, or any African organisation recognised by the African Union, provide an opinion on any legal matter relating to the Charter or any other relevant human rights instruments, provided that the subject matter of the opinion is not related to a matter being examined by the Commission.
  
•    Contentious Jurisdiction
The Court can deal with all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned.
•    Amicable settlements
The Court also has jurisdiction to promote amicable settlement in cases pending before it in accordance with the provisions of the Charter.

Who Can Make an Application to the Court?
•    The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
•    A State party to the Court's Protocol against which the complaint has been lodged at the Commission
•    A State party to the Court's Protocol whose citizen is a victim of a human rights violation
•    African Intergovernmental Organisations
•    State parties to the Court's Protocol with an interest in a case may be permitted by the Court to join the proceedings
•    Relevant non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with Observer Status before the Commission, and individuals can institute cases directly before the Court, if the State party from which they come from has made a declaration allowing such direct applications.
 
What are the Court's Official Languages?
The Court's official languages are the same as those of the African Union. The official languages of the African Union are set out in the Constitutive Act of the African Union as being Arabic, English, French and Portuguese.


How to file an Application to the Court?
Cases shall be submitted by post, email, fax or courier to the Registrar, in terms of Rule 25 and Rule 34, at the seat of the Court, in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Registrar has custody of the seal and official stamp of the Court with which to officially acknowledge receipt of any case submitted. The term "Registrar" here is used in its widest meaning : that of the registry "Office" rather than the person or officer. For in the absence of the person, the office will continue to function.
One has to send to the Court's Registry a signed application written in one of the Court's official languages.


 What are the conditions for sending an Application ?
For applications by individuals and NGOs, the application must:
1.    Disclose the identity of the applicant, even where the applicant has requested anonymity;
2.    Comply with the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Charter;
3.    Not contain any disparaging or insulting language;
4.    Not be based exclusively on news disseminated through the mass media;
5.    Be filed after exhausting local remedies, if any, unless it is obvious that this procedure is unduly prolonged;
6.    Be filed within a reasonable time from the date local remedies were exhausted or from the date set by the Court as being the commencement of the time limit within which it shall be seized with the matter;
7.    Not raise any matter or issues previously settled by the parties in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the provisions of the Charter or of any legal instrument of the African Union.


In addition to the above requirements, applications by individuals and NGOs should indicate, and this also applies to applications by entities other than individuals and NGOs:
1.    The names and addresses of the persons designated as the applicant's representative;
2.    A summary of the facts of the case and of the evidence that will be adduced;
3.    Clear particulars of the applicant and of the party or parties against whom the application has been brought;
4.    Specification of the alleged violation;
5.    Evidence of exhaustion of local remedies or of the inordinate delay of such local remedies;
6.    The orders or injunctions sought;
7.    Where an applicant on his/her own behalf or on behalf of the victim wishes to be granted reparation, the application should include the request for reparation.
 
Which is the Applicable Law for the Court?
The Court shall apply the provisions of the Charter and any other relevant human rights instruments ratified by the States concerned. The Charter provides that the sources of law that apply for the monitoring of the implementation of the Charter are international law on human and peoples' rights, particularly from the provisions of various African instruments on human and peoples' rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity, now the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other instruments adopted by the United Nations and by African countries in the field of human and peoples' rights as well as from the provisions of various instruments adopted within the Specialized Agencies of the United Nations of which the parties to the Charter are members.
 
What is the Nature of the Court’s Findings?
When the Court finds that there has been a violation of human and peoples' rights, it will issue appropriate orders to remedy the violation, including the payment of fair compensation or reparation.
In cases of extreme gravity and urgency, and when necessary to avoid irreparable harm to persons, the Court can adopt provisional measures as necessary. An example of a situation which necessitates adoption of provisional measures is when a death sentence is to be executed and the appeals process has not been exhausted.
 
How Long Does the Court Take to Render a Judgment?
The Court gives its judgment within ninety (90) days of having completed its deliberations. Its judgment is final and not subject to appeal. However, in light of new evidence, which was not within the knowledge of a party at the time the judgment was delivered, a party may apply for review of the judgment. This application must be within six months after that party acquired knowledge of the evidence discovered. The Court may also interpret its own decision.


What are the Relationship between the African Court and the Commission?
Pursuant to Article 2 of the Protocol, the Court is established to complement the protective mandate of the Commission. The African Commission can bring cases to the Court for the latter’s consideration. In certain circumstances, the Court may also refer cases to the Commission, and may request the opinion of the latter when dealing with the admissibility of a case.
The Court and the Commission have met and harmonised their respective rules of procedure, and institutionalised their relationship. In terms of their Rules, the Commission and the Court shall meet at least once a year, to discuss questions relating to their relationshi
 
Does Court Deal Criminal Matters?
 As at now, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has no jurisdiction to deal withcrimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, etc. But there is a project to have a full African Court with extended jurisdiction.
In fact, the Constitutive Act of the African Union provides for the establishment of a Court of Justice of the African Union as a principal judicial organ of the African Union to settle disputes over the interpretation of AU treaties. A protocol to set up this Court was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique, in July 2003 and entered into force on 11 February 2009. The Court was however never operationalized because the Assembly of the African Union decided that it should be merged with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to form the African Court of Justice and Human Rights (ACJHR). Underlying this decision was the concern at the growing number of AU institutions, which the AU could not afford to support.
Therefore, the Protocol of the Court of Justice was merged with the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples Rights, to establish the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The latter was adopted in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt during the 11th AU Summit of the Assembly in July 2008. As at May 2012, only three Member States of the African Union that is, Burkina Faso, Libya and Mali, had ratified the Protocol.
In the meantime, in February 2009, the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union requested the AU Commission, “in consultation with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to assess the implications of extending the jurisdiction of the Court to try international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. In that regard, a study was done and a draft Protocol to establish an African Court of Justice and Human Rights with extended jurisdiction is currently under consideration by Policy Organs of the African Union.

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General Information
Phone:+255-27 2970430
Email:registrar@african-court.org
         info@african-court.org

Physical Address
African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights
Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Conservation Centre
Dodoma Road
P.O. Box 6274 Arusha, TANZANIA