Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) has tasked the African Court on the defence of human rights among member states.
He spoke recently at the opening of African Court on human and peoples’ rights judicial year 2022 at Arusha, Tanzania, noted that the African Court, African
Commission and African Committee form the tripod on which the continent erects its human rights architecture. Congratulating the Court on its achievements in advancing human and peoples’ rights in Africa since its operationalization in 2006, Prof Osinbajo said the theme for the judicial year: “The African Court and Africa, We Want”, was apt because it echoes ‘Agenda 2063: Africa We Want’, with its seven forward-looking aspirations.
According to him, the African Union Handbook 2018 describes Agenda 2063 as a unique opportunity to rewrite the African narrative, with a view to instilling enthusiasm and impetus into the African population and using their constructive energy to define and implement a feasible programme for unity, peace and development during the 21st century.
He stressed that all AU Member States, organs and even Regional Economic Communities are required to align their development plans with Agenda 2063 and its first ten-year implementation plan.
He said: “As an AU organ, the African Court is obviously making a statement with this carefully crafted theme, that it intends to work with other stakeholders for the ‘Africa we want.’
“To further set the “By the terms of Article 30, each State Party “undertakes to comply with the judgment [or ‘order’] in any case to which they are parties within the time stipulated by the Court and to guarantee its execution”.
The vice president, however, expressed worries that the kind of enthusiasm displayed by states after adopting the African Charter appears to be lacking with respect to the Ouagadougou Protocol. According to him, the questions we must ask are whether the states are fatigued after only four decades of experiments in regional human rights protection?
“We might ask why there is an unwillingness to execute Article 34(6) declarations and why have some states that willingly executed Article 34(6) Declaration withdrawn the same after a few years?
What could have been done differently to prevent those States from withdrawing or to even encourage fresh ratifications and Article 34(6) Declarations? Why are some States unwilling to cooperate with provisional orders of the Court? We need to ask and reflect on these tough questions.
“We must find some common grounds as we move forward. There might be a need for further interaction between the court and member States and civil society on how to work through these issues.
“The general reluctance of States to concede sov- ereignty is not peculiar to African states, but it is possible for us to be more creative about complemen- tarity for instance.
“I make these submis- sions recognising very clearly that going by the present constitutive docu- ments of the courts and the African Union (AU) Charter, we are not in a position to effect what I am proposing, but I believe by way of amendments, we may be able to at least, experiment with some thinking out of the box on complementarity.
“For example, could we for instance consider the possibilities of the courts after their own rulings, making some recommenda- tions for the consideration of the Supreme Courts of Member States?
“This would of course involve further reflections and amendments to con- stitutive documents where necessary. “But the point being made is that it should be possible to change tactics from time to time while keeping the strategy and vision constant.
“State parties, of which I am a representative, must also recognize that the ratification of human rights treaties have consequences. Our regional institutions will only be as strong and effective as we want them to be.
“The African Court, Afri- can Commission and African Committee on their parts, must co-operate with each other in the true spirit of complementarity, rather than working at cross-purposes. If they do, they will send strong signals to States that a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
The vice president urged civil society to continue to defend human rights and monitor governance, particularly at the national levels, where they matter the most, The Trumpet gathered.
According to him, the effectiveness of the human rights system depends, ultimately, on the willingness of all stakeholders to perform their respective roles.
“I believe that Africa will overcome its current governance and human rights challenges. The African Court is a work in progress, being a young institution, it needs tending and nurturing. “Arusha, like Rome, if you will permit the cliche, was not built in a day.
At the start of many journeys, the path is usually uneven, with obstacles to surmount. The key is for all travellers to keep the end in focus,” he added.