Member-states urge review of African Court articles to enhance performance

Worried at the state of the court across the continent and urgent need for reform, African Union (AU) member-states have called for a review of the enabling articles for the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR).

Making the Monday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania during the opening of the Conference on Implementation and Impact of Court Decisions, stakeholders, including Nigerians, noted that “a critical review” of some of its establishing articles will usher in the needed reforms.

Among the speakers, a Nigerian don, Prof. Sylvester S. Shykyil (SAN), noted that Article 30 particularly has no binding effect in court judgment enforcement, adding a review should include sanctions for non-compliance.”

Similarly, “Article 29, which provides that the committee of ministers, comprising foreign affairs ministers of member-states, should monitor the implementation of the decision of the court without being given the power to enforce implementation.

“If that committee is to have any effect on implementation of the decisions of the court, my recommendation is that it should be given the enforcement power. It will go a long way in improving the state of the court.”

Back home, Shykyil lamented that though Nigeria has not yet deposited the declaration, its constitutional framework poses more obstacles than the enforcement of court rulings.

He cited Section 12(1) of the Nigerian Constitution which stipulates that “no treaty between Nigeria and any state would be binding on the Federal Government unless it is enacted into law by the National Assembly,” adding: This protocol has not been enacted into law by the National Assembly.

“The implication is that its treaty is not binding on the federation let alone depositing the declaration, which is to recognise individuals and non-governmental organisations bringing actions before the court.”

Expectedly, the constitution will supersede any provision of the court that is inconsistent to it, he noted, adding: “As noted by earlier speakers, if member-states do not respect the decisions of their domestic courts, it will be a nightmare to expect them to respect the decision of a supranational court.”

President of the Court, Justice Imani D. Aboud, had earlier stressed that the rationale for any justice system is enforceability of the outcome of disputes.

According to him, “regardless of the legal system, country or parties to a dispute, it is the legitimacy of the adjudicatory body that comes under threat whenever a decision is disregarded.”

The conference is expected to lead to a judicial dialogue on ways forward for the continental judicial body by chief justices of member-states, with the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, expected in attendance.

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