Rwanda criticised for pulling out of Africa rights court

Saturday March 19 2016

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. The US has condemned a vote by Rwanda’s two houses of parliament to approve a change to their constitution that allows President Paul Kagame to serve a third term. PHOTO | TIZIANA FABI | AFP.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. Rwanda has come under criticism from civil society organisations for withdrawing from the protocol that created the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. PHOTO | TIZIANA FABI | AFP. 

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Rwanda has come under criticism from civil society organisations for withdrawing from the protocol that created the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The East African Community nation withdrew its article 34(6) declaration of the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the establishment of the ACHPRs.

In a statement the organisations' termed Rwanda's move as a setback for human rights protection in the country and across Africa.

The organisations included African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS) of Sudan,
African Court Coalition Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy (AJPD), Angola and Association Malienne des Droits de l'Homme (AMDH), Mali.

Others are, Association rwandaise pour la Défense des droits de la personne et des libertés publiques (ADL) of Rwanda, Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense des droits de l'Homme (ATPDH) (Chad) Centre for the Study of Violence and Conciliation (CSVR), South Africa’s Chapter Four and Uganda's Defenders.

"As members of African and international civil society we have a vested interest in ensuring a strong and independent African human rights architecture to promote and protect human and peoples' rights on the continent," the statement said.

The groups said the ability for individuals and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to file cases directly before the African Court – the principal human rights tribunal on the continent – significantly reduces barriers of entry for survivors and victims of human rights violations seeking redress and significantly increases the capacity of the court to carry out its crucial mandate.

Previously, Rwanda had been commended for being one of the first states to accept the jurisdiction of the African court to hear cases brought directly by individuals and NGOs.

"However, particularly at a time when African states are demanding ‘African solutions to African problems’ this unprecedented decision to withdraw an article 34(6) declaration and the Rwandan government's failure to subsequently participate in proceedings before the court substantially undermines region-wide efforts to strengthen African human rights institutions and sends an alarming message about the Rwandan government's commitment to justice and human rights in general."

The NGOs added: "We call upon the African Union and all African states committed to the continued development of the African Human Rights System to join us in urging the Rwandan government to retract its withdrawal of its article 34(6) declaration."

"We call upon all African states to strengthen the African Court's role for the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights throughout the continent by ratifying the existing Protocol and depositing declarations allowing individual and NGOs direct access to the court"

Making the required declaration under Article 34(6) of the protocol establishing the court allows direct access to the court by individuals and NGOs.

Twenty-eight AU countries have ratified the protocol but only seven of them have made the declaration.