Statement by IHRDA to the ACHPR at its 60th Ordinary Session in Niamey, Niger
10 May 2017
Honourable Chairperson and Commissioners of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights,
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) congratulates the Commission on its 60th Ordinary Session in this year which marks 30 years of the Commission’s existence. Indeed, since the establishment of the Commission as the premier human rights enforcement and monitoring body on the continent, the Commission has made great strides in the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa.
However, as an organisation that engages with the commission, particularly in its protective mandate, IHRDA has a few issues of concern to raise with the Commission about its work.
We are concerned about the delays in the consideration of communications submitted to the Commission. IHRDA has had some of our communications that took about ten (10) years from the date of submission of the communication to when a decision was adopted on the merits of the communication. Conversely, the Commission has held in some communications that a domestic judicial procedure that went on for over three years was unduly prolonged. These delays negatively affect the victims of human rights violations who most times have no other recourse for a remedy outside the Commission. Like the popular saying goes, justice delayed is justice denied.
In so many cases, the delay in the consideration of communications is coupled with inadequate information from the Commission to the complainants about the status of the communication. This leaves the complainants in a limbo as they do not know what is happening with their communication or when the communication is likely to be decided.
We thus urge the Commission to adopt measures to ensure that communications are decided in a timely manner, and that complainants are kept informed of the status of communications.
Another concern we have is the exclusion of the original complainants from participating in communications that the Commission decides to refer to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Commission’s Rules of Procedure do not provide a role for the original complainants once the Commission decides to refer the case to the Court.
We are aware that the Commission is currently reviewing its Rules of Procedure. We respectfully urge the Commission to borrow a leaf from the practice at the Inter-American Human Rights system and adopt rules that afford the original complainant the opportunity to participate in cases referred to the Court, and that original complainants have a role in contributing to the Commission’s submissions before the Court.
Lastly, we are concerned that since the Executive Council of the African Union considered and authorised the publication of the 41st Activity Report of the Commission in January 2017, we are yet to have the text of the decisions that were adopted by the Commission. As such, IHRDA as a litigant does not know which decisions have been finalised. We respectfully call on the Commission to publish the text of these cases without delay.
We remain confident in the Commission and in its dedication to fulfilling its mandate of making sure that African States respect the human rights obligations they have taken under the African Charter on Human Rights. We assure the Commission of our willingness to assist it in any way we can towards achieving its mandate.