“The past 10 years has seen the African Court deliver on the promises of justice, despite the immense challenges along the way.

“As a Host Country, we are happy and satisfied with the level of performance of the Court, especially with regard to cases being brought before it from within the Tanzania,” Dr Mwakyembe stated to open the international symposium on a decade of human rights protection by the African Court.

About 150 delegates including the academia, civil society organisations, Organs of the African Union, judiciary representatives of regional and sub-regional human rights institutions, media practitioners are attending the two day commemoration.

Dr Mwakyembe noted: “By standing firm to your call of duty, you have proven that no challenge is insurmountable. I urge you to keep up this spirit, and more so, the momentum.

“For all of us, this anniversary therefore is a special occasion, a time of celebration, a time for a deserved sense of achievement and once the festivities are over, a time of contemplating a new Chapter.”

He observed that prior to the establishment of the African Court there was not any other mechanism in Africa for enforcement and compliance of human rights obligations.

“The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights was in existence, but it was only mandated to, among other things, deal with human rights complaints and making recommendations to Member States for improvement of human rights situation.

“We now have the Court – a competent judicial body to address the many human rights questions, and more especially the individual rights,” he said.

The Tanzania Minister noted that equally, with the creation of the African Court, complementary between the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights and the African Court has been ensured.

“ The African Court’s jurisdiction has been expansive in its scope by applying other international and regional instruments that concerned States have ratified. This has widened the horizon for those seeking enforcement of their rights,” he said.

He said: “It is also fair to say that, the establishment within the Court of the Legal Aid Scheme has been a milestone. The Scheme has enabled a number of indigent/less privileged applicants to get legal representation before the Court, hence ensure justice to people from all walks of life.

“It can also be noted that, sessions held at the African Court help attorneys and lawyers in horning their litigation skills and provide them with practical experience on how matters are handled at international legal institutions. This has enriched their ways of addressing legal questions before the Court.”

Dr Mwakyembe however expressed concern about 24 countries that have not ratified the Protocol establishing the African Court.

“Only 30 out of 54 Member States have signed and ratified it, and therefore it means they do not recognise this Court, thereby denying their citizens the basic right of access to the Court, which is our own creation.

“My immediate appeal would be for those countries that have not ratified this Protocol should consider doing so a matter of priority,” he said.

He also noted a number of countries that have made the Declaration to accept the competency of the African Court to receive human rights cases is just so discouraging.

“Only seven (after the withdrawal of one member state) have made this important Declaration. This is a clear testimony that the political will is too low and therefore many people on the continent cannot access the Court established solely for them. It is time for us to see this commitment differently,” he said.

He called on the African Court to conduct more programmes among African Nations so as to create awareness about the work of the Court.

“This will give the African Court its deserved visibility and it will also encourage more members to take up their share of responsibility,” he said.

He said: “Indeed, the success of the African Court can only be realised if we are all committed to the promotion and protection of human rights by discharging our obligations in utmost good faith and also if individuals are informed of their rights.

“We should, in our respective countries see to it that the National Human Rights Institutions take up their active role of independently monitoring the role of Governments and Civil Society in supplementing efforts by the Government, through many ways, including through resource mobilisation.”

Source: GNA/NewsGhana.com.gh

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