Your Excellency Justice Lamin Jobarteh, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Republic of the Gambia;
Honourable Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
Your Excellencies Heads of Delegation of the States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights ;
Representatives of the African Union Commission;
Delegates of the States Parties to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
Representatives of national human rights institutions;
Members of Civil Society involved in the promotion and respect of human rights on the African continent;
Ladies and Gentlemen, all protocols observed.
1. It is a great honour for me to take the floor on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the 53rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
2. I would like to express the deepest gratitude of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to the African Commission for the invitation it regularly extends to it to participate in its sessions. We also thank the Commission for the opportunity we are given to speak before this august body.
3. This regular presence is testimony to the perfect collaboration between the two institutions and the formal complementarity enshrined in the Protocol on the establishment of the Court. This protocol requires the two institutions to complement the efforts of each other in the area of the protection of human rights.
4. In this regard, the Protocol provides that the Commission may seize the Court of allegations of human rights violations, on the one hand, and that the Court has already referred four cases to the Commission, on the other hand.
5. The relationship between the two organs is also enshrined in their respective Rules of Procedure. These rules provide that regular meetings between the two organs should be organized formally. Thus, the third meeting of the executive organs of the two institutions took place in January, 2013 in Addis-Ababa on the sidelines of the Conference of Heads of State and Government. Preparations are underway for the second meeting of the two organs.
6. This complementarity is also observed in the mutual participation in certain activities of the two institutions. Indeed, the Court has been participating regularly in the Commission’s sessions since November, 2010. For its part, the Commission has participated in certain promotional activities of the Court, particularly the continental conference on the promotion of the Court organized by the latter in March, 2011 in Lilongwe.
7. In addition, I should, on behalf of Court, like to thank the Commission for its commitment to the promotion of the Court, an activity it undertakes as part of its various promotion missions during which it constantly urges the visited States to ratify the protocol and/or make the special declaration on the recognition of the jurisdiction of the Courts to receive complaints from individuals under Article 34.6 of the Protocol on the establishment of the African Court, at least for the States which have not yet done so.
8. The complementarity of the two institutions is also manifested in their staff exchange programme. Thus, for the implementation of this programme, the Court has already sent a member of staff of the Clerk’s Office to support the Secretariat of the Commission during a session of the latter. It has also just done so for this on-going session.
9. In order to strengthen complementarity in their relations and still mindful of ensuring a broader and more effective protection of human rights on the continent, the judges of the Court and the Commissioners of the Commission, during their first joint meeting held in July, 2012 in Algiers, considered the long-term possibility of issuing joint publications which would tackle legal themes and opinions on human rights issues of common interest.
10. An initial step taken in this regard was the setting up of a joint working group to lead this brainstorming process. This group is made up of three (3) judges and three (3) Commissioners.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
11. I would like to take this opportunity to speak about the situation of the African Court. It should be recalled that up to date, 26 countries have ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on the establishment of the African Court. Only six of them have already made the special declaration of recognition of the jurisdiction of the Court.
12. I, therefore, seize this opportunity to urge the States which have not yet ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to do so. I have no doubt that the members of the delegations gathered here which have not yet done so, including the States, will intercede with their governments in favour of this solemn request in order to ensure a better protection of their fellow citizens.
13. To those of them which have already ratified the Charter but have not yet made the Declaration of recognition of the jurisdiction of the Court, we urge them to do so that they can receive petitions from individuals. This desire on the part of the States will enable their fellow citizens to seize the Court of cases after exhausting or attempting to exhaust the internal remedies at law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
14. I cannot end my speech without commending the African Commission for the efforts it continues to make to ensure that human rights become a reality on the African continent.
15. I would also like to wish the Commission and participants success in this session. I have no doubt that, like in the past, the exchanges between the various stakeholders will be frank and fruitful, as the Commission strives to achieve a better promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
16 Finally, I would like to thank the Government of the Republic of The Gambia for all the facilities it has generously put at our disposal since our arrival in the Gambian capital.
I thank you for your kind attention.