The President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau H. E José Mário Vaz has pledged to ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (AfCHPR) soonest.
Receiving the AfCHPR mission led by President Hon. Justice Sylvain Oré at the State House in Bissau yesterday, the Guinea Bissau leader underscored that the West African country was among the first in 1998 to sign the protocol for its establishment and do not wish to delay its ratification.
The other members of the mission are: Vice President Hon. Justice Ben Kioko and Hon Justice Angelo Matusse and the Registry staff.
During the talks, the Guinea Bissau president expressed satisfaction over the objectives behind the establishment of the African Court, adding that human rights issues are fundamental to achieving socio-economic development in African countries.
"My commitment is to guarantee basic human rights in my country," he stressed.
The AfCHPR mission also paid courtesy call on the Prime Minister H. E Umaro
Sissoco Embaló who said that relevant authorities would prepare documents for submission to the National Assembly for ratification of the African Court Protocol.
"I am a strong believer in Pan-Africanism and will do whatever possible to strengthen AU organs and institutions,' emphasized the PM. "I will be an Ambassador for the Court," he added.
The African Court mission also held talks with the Chief Justice; the Minister for Public Affairs (standing-in for the Minister of Justice); the First Vice President of the National Assembly; the Bar Association; and the Guinea Bissau National Commission on Human Rights, among others.
The mission held a one-day seminar today for about 100 stakeholders with view to promoting the Court.
Opening the seminar on behalf of the prime minister, the Guinea Bissau Minister for State in charge of Council of Ministers and Parliamentary Affairs H.E Soares Sambú reassured the participants that the government attached very high importance to issues of human rights.
He also thanked the African Court for hosting the seminar in Bissau.
Hon Oré said that in order for the Court to achieve its objectives, there is a need for more countries to ratify the Protocol and deposit the Declaration that allows access to the Court by Non-Governmental Organizations and individuals.
So far, 30 out of 55 AU Member States have ratified the Protocol, and only 8 countries have made a declaration under Article 34(6) that allows access to the Court by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and individuals. The eight countries are: Burkina Faso, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania and Tunisia.
The African Court undertook similar sensitizations to the Arab Republic of Egypt and Republic of Tunisia in April this year which resulted in Tunisia depositing a declaration allowing NGOs and individuals to access the Court, whereas Egypt expressed its willingness to work towards the ratification of the Protocol establishing the Court.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
1.The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Court) was established by virtue of Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights with a view to enhancing the protection of human rights on the continent.
2.The success of the Court as a human rights protection mechanism requires much wider ratification of the Protocol by Member States, as well as their acceptance of the competence of the Court by making the Declaration under Article 34(6). This "universal" ratification will give the Court the legitimacy it needs to effectively discharge its mandate.
3.Guinea Bissau signed the Protocol establishing the Court in June 1998 but is yet to ratify it and make a Declaration.
Further information on the Court can be obtained from the Court's website at www.african-court.org.