President José Mário Vaz of the Republic of Guinea Bissau has pledged to ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Guinea Bissau signed the Protocol establishing the African Court in June 1998 but is yet to ratify the Protocol and deposit the Declaration that allows its citizens and Non-Governmental Organisations access to the African Court.

“My commitment to my people is to guarantee basic human rights in my country…am therefore ready to set in motion the necessary legal requirement to ratify the Protocol,” President Mario Vaz stated during discussion with African Court Delegation at the capital Bissau.

The African Court delegation was led by its President Justice Sylvain Oré, the Vice President Justice Ben Kioko, Justice Angelo Matusse and the Registry staff.

President Mario Vaz expressed satisfaction over the objectives behind the establishment of the African Court, adding “that human rights issues are fundamental to achieving socio-economic development in African countries”.

The African Court delegation also paid courtesy call on the Prime Minister H. E Umaro Sissoco Embaló who noted that the government will immediately task the relevant authorities to prepare documents for submission to the National Assembly for ratification of the African Court Protocol.

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He said: “I am a strong believer in Pan-Africanism and will do whatever possible to strengthen AU organs and institutions…I will be an Ambassador for the Court”.

Justice Sylvain Oré, President of African Court commended the President Mario Vaz for exhibiting total commitment to ratify the Protocol within reasonable time and explained that the visit form part of the broader strategy to project the Court to achieve its objectives.

He said there is a need for more countries to ratify the Protocol and deposit the Declaration that allows access to the African Court by Non-Governmental Organizations and individuals, “It is therefore refreshing to hear the President of Guinea Bissau’s assurance to ratify the Protocol”.

He said the success of the African Court as a human rights protection mechanism requires much 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.

“So far, 30 out of 55 AU Member States have ratified the Protocol, and only eight countries have made a declaration under Article 34(6) that allows access to the Court by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals.

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“It is within this framework that since 2010, the African Court has embarked on a sensitization programme, which has enabled it to carry out outreach visits, seminars and conferences at national, regional and continental levels,” Justice Oré said.

He added: “These activities are aimed at enabling the African Court to interact with different actors in order to afford them the opportunity to deepen their understanding of the Court’s mission and possibilities that it offers in terms of human rights protection.’’

The African Court undertook similar sensitizations to the Arab Republic of Egypt and Republic of Tunisia in April this year which resulted in Tunisia depositing a declaration allowing NGOs and individuals to access the Court, whereas Egypt expressed its willingness to work towards the ratification of the Protocol establishing the Court.

The African Court was established by virtue of Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Right to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with a view to enhancing the protection of human rights on the continent.

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The African Court mission also held talks with the Chief Justice; the Minister for Public Affairs (standing-in for the Minister of Justice); the First Vice President of the National Assembly; the Bar Association; and the Guinea Bissau National Commission on Human Rights, among others.

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Source: CDA Consult