West Africa: Sierra Leone, Liberia to ratify African Court Protocol.
By our Starr radio UK correspondent Adebayo Johnson
Sierra Leone and Liberia are ready to ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and deposit the special declaration under Article 34 (6), which allows individuals and NGOs to access the Court directly.
President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone and President George Weah of Liberia gave the assurance during separate courtesy calls at Freetown and Monrovia respectively by African Court delegation led by its President Justice Sylvain Oré.
Other members of the delegation included the former President of the African Court, Justice Gérard Niyungeko and the Registry staff.
President Bio appreciated the Continental Court’s efforts at strengthening human and people’s rights across Africa.
“Our commitment to human rights is very strong and you can be rest assured that we will give this particular issue a positive consideration.
“We will look at it and consider the ratification and the declaration. My government will look into the issues and take positive measures about them,” he stated during talks with the African Court’s delegation.
President Weah said that Liberia was committed to protecting and observing human rights and fully backed the work of the Continental Court.
He also assured the African Court delegation of his government‘s support towards ratification of the Protocol establishing the African Court, adding: “You have our support in protection of human rights on our continent”.
Justice Ore noted that Sierra Leone and Liberia have made tremendous democratic gains in recent years and encourage the two countries to ratify the Protocol and to deposit the declarations.
He explained that the sensitisation missions formed part of the on-going efforts of the African Court to interact with different stakeholders in order to deepen their understanding of the Court’s mission and to encourage States to ratify the Protocol establishing it and to deposit the special declaration.
The African Court President noted that 30 out of 55 African Union Member States have ratified the Protocol and only eight out of the 30, have deposited the declaration. These are: Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania and Tunisia.
Both Sierra Leone and Liberia are yet to ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court and deposit the declaration.
The African Court delegation held seminars for human rights stakeholders in the two West African countries and also paid courtesy calls on the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice, the Legislature, the Judiciary, the Human Rights Commission and the Bar Association, among others.
The African Court was established by virtue of Article one of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court to complement the protective mandate of the Commission, with a view to enhancing the protection of human rights on the continent.
The success of the African Court as a human rights protection mechanism requires a wider ratification of the Protocol by Member States, as well as their acceptance of the competence of the Court, by making the declaration under Article 34(6).
This “universal” ratification will give the African Court the legitimacy it needs to effectively discharge its mandate.
Since December 2010, the Court has carried out continent-wide promotion programmes which have so far seen it undertake 25 national sensitisations, to enhance the protection of human rights in Africa.
Specific objectives include raising awareness about the African Court; encouraging the ratification of the Protocol and deposit of the Declaration that allows individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court.
Sensitising would-be applicants on how to access the Court and the procedures before the Court; encouraging the public to utilise the Court in settling human rights disputes and encouraging the utilisation of the Court for advisory opinions.