AU court seeks to expand jurisdiction

THE African Union’s African Court on Human and People’s Rights judge president Gerard Niyungeko has revealed that the institution wants to expand its jurisdiction to criminal matters in a manner similar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to address its challenges.
The African Court was adopted at the then Organisation of African Unity summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 1998 as a continental court to ensure protection of human and people’s rights in Africa. It complements and reinforces the functions of the AU Commission on Human and People’s Rights.
Speaking at the recent AU summit in Addis Ababa on challenges faced by the African Court based in Tanzania, Niyungeko said the court’s jurisdiction was only limited to civil matters and the AU’s policy department was working on broadening the court’s line of work to enable it to try leaders, rebels, security agents and ordinary people on cases of a criminal nature.
The ICC has been criticised by African leaders as targeting only them while their counterparts from the West remain untouchable.
“The court has been receiving several criminal cases from a number of countries, but it cannot yet try anyone in criminal matters because it does not have criminal jurisdiction,” said Niyungeko. “AU policy organs have recognised that the African Court should be given broad jurisdiction especially on criminal matters.”
However, Niyungeko lamented the small number of countries which had ratified the court, among them Zimbabwe, which has also not ratified the ICC.
“Out of 54 countries, only 26 have so far ratified, which is a challenge because all of these countries have ratified the Charter on Human and People’s Rights.”
Niyungeko said the African Court would collaborate with the ICC. — Staff Writer.

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