The Africa Center for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) has urged African states to ratify the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to demonstrate their commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in Africa.
The Protocol established the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) situated in Arusha, Tanzania.
In an interview with the Graphic, Mr. William Nyarko, Executive Director of ACILA, said that it is regrettable that since the Protocol became available for ratification in 2004, only 29 out of 54 African states have ratified the Protocol.
“It’s been more than 10 years since the Protocol became available for ratification and only a little over half of African states have ratified the Protocol. We can do better than this by ratifying the Protocol to demonstrate our commitment to promoting and protecting human rights and provide assurance to victims of human rights abuses that when domestic systems fail, they can resort to this African court for justice, Mr. Nyarko said.
Continuing, he said that demonstrating this commitment is very important, especially at a time when African states intend to establish an African court with jurisdiction to prosecute serious international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
In addition to a state’s ratification of the Protocol, it must also make a declaration to allow its citizens to file petitions against it at the African court in Tanzania.
“Ratification is a horizontal accountability mechanism between states as this allows states that have ratified the Protocol to bring an action against each other. However, a declaration works vertically as this allows individuals to file petitions against the state that made a declaration upon ratification’’, he said.
In response to a question on how many African states have made a declaration to allow citizens to file petitions against it, Mr. Nyarko said that only 7 states, including Ghana, had made this declaration, adding that Ghanaians may file complaints against the state.
“A complainant must ensure that the complaint will meet admissibility requirements. He must allege facts detailing the abuse of his rights that are within the jurisdiction of the Court; the writing should not be abusive, and he must generally have exhausted domestic remedies, among other requirements”, he said.
The court’s decision, which is binding on states that have ratified the Protocol, may include reparation and compensation for violation of a person’s human rights.
“We should be using this continental court often, especially when domestic courts fail us or to complement the efforts of domestic courts to promote and protect our human rights on the African continent”, Mr. Nyarko added.