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Why Ugandans are locked out of African Court of Human Rights

By Moses Walubiri

Added 30th October 2019 07:46 PM

DESPITE being one of the 30 states that have ratified the protocol for the creation of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, Ugandans or its Non-Governmental Organizations have no locus to file suits in the Arusha based court.

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DESPITE being one of the 30 states that have ratified the protocol for the creation of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, Ugandans or its Non-Governmental Organizations have no locus to file suits in the Arusha based court.

Yesterday, the Deputy Registrar of the Arusha based court; Nounou Diallo revealed that Uganda is one of the 21 states that are yet to table a declaration authorizing such locus despite ratifying the protocol that birthed it.

The requirement for an African country that has ratified the protocol to table a declaration before the African Court of Human rights is clothed with jurisdiction is provided for under Article 34(6) of the protocol.

In an interface with journalists – both local and foreign, that are set to cover the fourth African judicial dialogue yesterday, Diallo noted that African countries that are yet to table a declaration are wary of ‘busybodies’ filing flimsy time wasting suits.

The dialogue to be opened by President Yoweri Museveni today will be held under the theme: “Tackling contemporary Human Rights issues: The role of the judiciary in Africa.”

“But I think this kind of fear is unfounded. To me it’s down to lack of political will. A country like Burkina Faso which was among the first to table a declaration has not faced a single suit at court,” Diallo said.

Among the countries that have tabled the aforesaid declaration include Burkina Faso, Malawi, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Tunisia and Gambia.

Rwanda, according to Victor Lowila, a program officer at the court, withdrew its declaration shortly after giving it.

When asked whether the court is a lame duck on account of the limited number of people who can actually file suits, Diallo said progress will be made as countries in Africa come to appreciate the importance of respecting fundamental liberties of their citizens.

“These conditions were imposed by the African Union member states. We believe, just like it happened in Europe, AU member states will appreciate the sanctity of respecting the rights of their citizens,” Diallo said.

However, Lowilla was a tad uncharitable to countries yet to table their declarations, saying: “Why ratify a protocol and then withhold the declaration to deny your citizens the right to access the court?”

The African Court on Human Rights has an annual budget of $12m contributed by the 30 countries that have ratified the protocol.

Efforts to get a comment from Attorney General, William Byaruhanga or his deputy, Mwesigwa Rukutana as to why Government is dragging its feet over tabling a declaration of the protocol proved futile.

The African Court on Human Rights offers advisory services to the African Union on request and sometimes handles adversarial cases on human rights breaches.  

However, it faces the challenge of enforcing its judgements – relying mostly on the goodwill of countries that have ratified the protocol to do so.

The African Court on Human and People’s Rights (the court) is a continental court established by member states of the African Union to enhance the protection of human rights.

The Malabo protocol of 2014 extended the jurisdiction of the court to handle criminal matters.

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