Direct Access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights by Individuals and Non Governmental Organisations: An Overview of the Emerging Jurisprudence of the African Court 2008-2012

in International Human Rights Law Review
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Articles 5(3) and 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights require that an application before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Court) will not be ‘received’ unless two conditions are fulfilled. First, the application must be filed against a State which has ratified the Protocol. Second, an application can be received only against a State which made an optional declaration accepting the competence of the Court to receive cases from Non Governmental organisations (NGOs) with observer status before the Commission and individuals. The vast majority of State parties to the Protocol have not filed (and are not likely to file in the near future) a declaration to allow NGOs and individuals, most likely to bring human rights cases before the Court, direct access to the Court. This article examines the impact of the limitation imposed on direct access to the Court by individuals and NGOs on the African Court’s jurisdiction by considering the applications decided by the Court since it started its operations in 2006 up to December 2012. It is argued that the limitation is a major challenge currently facing the Court and that it has adversely affected the exercise of the Court’s jurisdiction. It is concluded that allowing NGOs and individuals direct access to the Court will make a significant contribution to the attainment of the objectives of the African Charter and the Court’s Protocol.




Adopted 27 June 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 ILM 58 (1982), entered into force 21 October 1986.


By October 2012, four hundred forty seven (447) NGOS had Observer Status with the African Commission. See section 4.2 below.


By the end of 2012, the following 26 States had ratified the Protocol: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.


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