Enforcement of African Court decisions betrays African Union’s commitment

African Court
African Court

The fact that only seven per cent of decisions so far delivered by the African Court have been enforced is alarming and betrays the aim pursued by Member States of the African Union for the Court’s establishment.

Lady Justice Imani D. Aboud, President of the African Court who said this at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, stated, “It follows that, regardless of the legal system of the country, or the parties to the dispute, it is the legitimacy of the adjudicatory body that comes under threat every time a judicial decision is disregarded.

“It is in recognition of this imperative of the rule of law that the African Union lawmakers conferred on the decisions of the African Court both the binding character and enforceable nature through Article 30 of the Protocol establishing the Court”.

Lady Justice Aboud who was speaking at the opening of the International Conference on the Implementation and Impact of Decisions of the African Court, noted that the main rationale for any justice system is the enforceability of the outcome of the dispute that the parties bring before a competent body for adjudication.

She recounted a gloomy picture as the African Court celebrates its 15th year of operation, “barely one in ten of its decisions is enforced; and a less than modest six of the founding Member States recognise its jurisdiction.

“Only 31 of 55 States recognise the African Court’s operational existence altogether. This picture does not honour Africa, it does not honour Member States of the African Union, it does not honour the African Court and it does not honour Africans”.

The African Court President noted: “it is worth noting that 54 of the 55 Member States of the African Union have ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and virtually all the constitutions of these Member States recognise the Charter as having a fundamental normative value in constitutional democracies and the rule of law in the region.

“As a consequence of this universal recognition of the Charter, the authority and legitimacy of the African Court should therefore be almost unanimously recognised by States, however, there is very little national response to the decisions of the African Court, which is another cause for concern”.

She said key issues arising from this disconnected trend between the African Court and national were manifold.

“When the African Court rules on the death penalty, should governments not be expected to undertake the necessary reforms to prevent litigation in which the Court would ultimately give judgment against the State concerned?

“Similarly, when a national court adjudicates on the issue of freedom of expression on which the African Court has already made a pronouncement, should the municipal judge not be guided by the source of interpretation provided by the African Court given that the African Charter is already part of national law?” Lady Justice Aboud question.

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