The Republic of Tunisia yesterday joined Tanzania and other states in the African continent to sign a declaration, enabling Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals to access the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR) directly.
Tunisia becomes the eighth nation to sign such declaration. Other countries that have so far signed, apart from Tanzania, are Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi and Mali, according to a statement issued in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
It is indicated that Rwanda, which had signed, formally withdrew from the declaration last month, although the African Union Summit has urged the East African country to reconsider its position. The statement issued by the Court indicates further that the Tunisian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Khemaies Jhinaoui, signed the declaration yesterday on behalf of his government.
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi said that the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights must be popularised on the continent in order to enable African citizens know about its lofty objectives and activities.
The president gave such remarks after receiving a delegation of the AfCHPR led by its President, Justice Sylvain Oré, at the State House in Tunis recently.
He commended the creation of the Court, adding that its establishment guarantees protection of human rights in Africa. "In that way, African human rights will be protected and ensure sustained democratic progress of our people," he told the delegation, which also included Hon Justice Rafaȃ Ben Achour and Lady Justice Chafika Bensaoula.
The president called for extensive dissemination of information on the Court to enable the population to know, understand and appreciate the Court's existence and its noble work to deepen democratic processes on the continent.
On his part, the AfCHPR president thanked the Tunisian government for agreeing to host the Court's delegation, meet key officials and also conduct a sensitization seminar for stakeholders in Tunis.
He also lauded Tunisia's decision to sign the Article 34(6) declaration that enables non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individuals to access the Court directly. "I hail the government of Tunisia on this decision and urge other African countries to follow suit," Justice Oré is quoted as saying.
The AfCHPR delegation visited the Arab Republic of Egypt from April 9 to 11, this year and held discussions with various key dignitaries, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Speaker of Parliament, among others.
Egypt, which has not ratified the establishment of the Court, however, expressed its appreciation of the Court's work for the past 10 years and is giving consideration to ratifying the protocol.
"The visit to Egypt has been very much encouraging and we are looking forward to the North African country ratifying the Protocol," Justice Oré is further quoted as saying in the statement. According to Justice Oré, the sensitization visits have helped to raise awareness of the Court's existence and also to encourage more AU Member States to ratify the Protocol and make the declaration to allow individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court.
"For the Court to achieve its objectives and further strengthen African humanrights systems, a greater number of countries must ratify the protocol and make the declaration under Article 34(6)," he said.
Since December 2010, the Court has carried out continent-wide promotion programmes which have so far seen it undertake 27 sensitization visits and hold 12 regional and continental seminars and conferences.
The main objective of the sensitization visits is to enhance protection of human rights in Africa. Specific objectives include, raising public awareness about the Court and encouraging the ratification of the protocol and depositing of the declaration that allows individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court.
Other objectives are sensitizing would-be applicants on how to access the Court and the procedures before the Court, encouraging the public to utilize the Court in settling human-rights disputes and encouraging the utilization of the Court for advisory opinions.