‘Human rights court facing tests in 2022'

14Jan 2022
Marc Nkwame
The Guardian
‘Human rights court facing tests in 2022'

​​​​​​​THE year 2022 comes with peculiar challenges that the African Court on Human and People’s Rights must work to solve, the court’s president, Lady Justice Imani Aboud has declared.

Court’s president, Lady Justice Imani Aboud.

“The African Court will certainly encounter challenges that are common to the administration of justice in Africa during a time when justice will remain largely virtual,” she said in the judicial entity’s New Year statement.

“These challenges include upholding fair trial rights, developing adequate solutions to emerging socio-political litigation, and enforcing effective remedies in an era of increased assertion of sovereignty by states,” the statement underlined.

“In the year 2022, the African Court will therefore assume the huge task of delivering human rights justice in a regional environment impacted by the global democracy crisis. For this, the court will have to withstand the challenges that the operational environment will undoubtedly affect its operation,” she asserted.

 The court needs to grapple with the crucial need to best capitalize on its now well established operational capacity to harness quality and greater authority, she stated, affirming that realising this aim necessarily involves internal institutional reform.

"But it certainly requires external stakeholders to reinvent their judicial engagement in a way that helps the court unleash its full justice-delivering potential, as envisaged by the African Union and fervently awaited by Africans,” the court president intoned.

The Arusha-based Pan-African Court is similarly working to bring states back to the heart of human rights justice in Africa in the course of this year, she remarked, commending member states of the African Union for their unwavering commitment to engage in a constructive dialogue with the court.

The dialogue aims at conducting a review of their role in promoting human rights justice in the AU member states, she stated, affirming that it was also important to note that the protection of human rights cannot be fully realised without the active participation of African citizens and the support of non-government actors, as they represent the people of Africa.

“The African Court therefore hopes that African civil society joins the court's reform process by actively engaging with the African Union, individual states, and the court,” the statement noted, urging citizens all over the continent to “proactively engage with the court directly and through African civil societies to ensure the effective protection of their rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Human rights justice is at the center of the debate on current threats to democratisation in Africa, with a growing general concern that human rights will be the primary victim of a new global trend of unconstitutional changes of government and relapse to authoritarianism, the leading jurist lamented.

“Should African governments renew their commitment to the original aim that led to the establishment of the African Court, it is certain that, by readapting itself to cope with and respond to today's challenges, the court will make an unprecedented contribution to resolving the regional democracy crisis currently facing the continent,” she further asserted.

“My message for this year is therefore a call for all stakeholders to build an alliance towards three main achievements: pursue quality justice; place States at the heart of the discourse on human rights justice; and devise strategies to promote Africa's contribution to overcome the global and regional democracy crisis.”

In the past two years, the African Court has adjusted itself to the fast-changing sphere of international human rights justice, especially in handling the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, underlining that court achievements since the advent of the pandemic show a consistent trend of increased ‘productivity.’

Despite the difficulty of holding in-person sessions, it has almost doubled its judicial output by delivering several judgments in one calendar year, the statement added.