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Human rights court plagued by lack of commitment

Publish date: 28 February 2012
Issue Number: 468
Diary: Legalbrief Africa Old
Category: Africa Focus

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights last year held a 'sensitisation' seminar in Johannesburg which aimed to make South Africans, institutions and organisations aware of the court, its role, mandate and track record.

In a Mail & Guardian Online report, political analyst Webster Zambara describes the move as 'peculiar' because courts do not often need to raise their public profile or solicit new work. 'But the judges of the African court have good reason for this outreach: between 2008 and early this year the court received only 10 cases, despite a myriad of human rights violations across the continent. A lack of commitment is illustrated by serious delays in the election and appointment of judges to the court. The first judges were appointed only in 2006. Two more years were required before the court was ready to receive cases at its seat in Arusha, Tanzania. Despite the high proportion of women among victims of human-rights abuses in Africa, there are only two female judges among the court's 11. The charter and the court are important milestones for Africa, but the human-rights architecture and institutions remain works in progress. The doctrine of "African solutions for African problems" will carry weight only when Africa begins to respect its own institutions, both in word and in practice. Full Mail & Guardian Online report