The African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (AfCHPR) has vowed to defend its independence at any cost from interference of Western powers, a prominent lawyer said here over the weekend.
Justice Gerard Niyungeko, the President of the Arusha based AfCHPR, presenting a paper in a Public Lecture organized by the Faculty of Law of Tumaini University Makumira (TUMA) said:
“Africans should not worry about the independence of the AfCHPR because the court does not rely on funds from foreign donors who have the potential for heaping pressure on the court with the view to relaxing its rules in order to be in line with demands of the donor community.”
Earlier on, the Dean of the faculty of Law Advocate Elifuraha Laltaika wanted to know his lordship’s views on the independence of the institution when it comes to its sources of funds.
The dean said whereas to rely on foreign donors is precarious because donors can influence decisions of the court; relying on African governments is equally not safe because some African governments are known for their unwillingness to finance inter governmental organizations on time.
Laltaika expressed his worries that once the African court starts to make decisions that are not favourable to the African governments; an immediate blow might be felt on its budget.
Responding to the concerns, the AfCHPR, said his court is fully aware of the dangers involved in relying on donor funds. To this end, the court does not accept foreign donations for the purpose of running it. “We know donors can undermine our independence so we don’t accept donor funds for the purposes of running the court,.” he explained.
On the possibility of member states failing to finance the court once the court starts to issue unfavorable decisions, Niyungeko said the budget of the African court is from the African Union and that the court does not have a separate budget of its own.
“Whether a state party has ratified the protocol for the establishment of the African court or not, it must fund the court through compulsory contributions to the African Union,” the president said.
Commenting on access to the court by individuals and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Niyungeko said that only five countries out of 26 that have so far ratified the protocol on the establishment of the court have made a declaration to that effect.
He mentioned the counties as Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Ghana and Mali. The Judge said since most of the African countries have not made such a declaration, his court lacks jurisdiction to entertain cases brought by NGOs and individuals from those other countries.
Regarding the possibility for the African commission to bring cases directly to the African court for determination, the judge said the relationship between the Commission and the Court is based on the principle of complementarities on the basis of which the court can not be converted into a rubber stamp.
In addition, he said, there is no guarantee on the part of individuals and NGOs that once they file their communications with the commission, the same can be taken to the African Court.
The Faculty of Law of Tumaini University Makumira has organized a series of Public Lectures on the theme “Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the African Continent” to run throughout the semester.
According to the Faculty Dean Advocate Laltaika, these lectures aim at taking stock of progress made so far in the continent in order to create awareness and instill a sense of appreciation on the part of students, lecturers and the Community around the University.
“We are convinced that interaction between prominent human rights practitioners on the one hand and members of the academia on the other hand will facilitate timely exchange of valuable information and mutual intellectual enrichment,” said Dean Laltaika.
The first Lecture in this series focused on the African Committee of Experts on the Rights of the Child (ACERC) and the guest speaker was Advocate Clement Mashamba who has recently been nominated by the Government of Tanzania to serve as an expert in ACERC.
The next two Public Lectures, according to the Faculty Dean will focus on the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) respectively. The Faculty brands itself as a center of excellence when it comes to studies in Human Rights Law.
In his closing remarks, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs (DVCAA) Professor Ismail Mbise urged the Law Faculty to ensure that all lectures are published in a book to facilitate access by a wide range of stakeholders. The Law faculty offers Certificate in Law, Diploma in Law, Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and Master of Laws in Human Rights (LL.M-Human Rights).