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Tanzania in the Spotlight for ‘Withdrawal’ from Arusha-based Human-rights Court

Summary
👉 In 2019, Tanzania became the second country in the EAC, after Rwanda, to withdraw the right of individuals and non-governmental organisations to directly access the African Court. Rwanda withdrew in 2016.
👉 Of the 55 AU member states, 31 have ratified the protocol establishing the continental court.
👉 Tanzania has the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs, at 156 applications, as well as judgments issued against it by the African Court.

Tanzania has come under continental scrutiny for withdrawing from the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, which it hosts in Arusha.

In 2019, Tanzania became the second country in the EAC, after Rwanda, to withdraw the right of individuals and non-governmental organisations to directly access the African Court. Rwanda withdrew in 2016.

At the conference on the Implementation and Impact of Decisions of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights’ held last week in Dar es Salaam, participants observed that 15 years after the court was established, it is facing major challenges.

The court’s president Justice Imani Aboud, a Tanzanian, said that almost all its decisions are not enforced. Only six of the founding member states recognise its jurisdiction.

“This does not honour Africa, it does not honour member states of the African Union, it does not honour the African Court and Africans,” Justice Aboud said.

The Court was established in June 1998, with the protocol coming into force on January 25, 2004.

Ratification


Of the 55 AU member states, 31 have ratified the protocol establishing the continental court. Of the 31, only six — Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Malawi and Tunisia — have deposited a declaration recognising the competence of the Court to receive cases directly from NGOs and individuals.

On November 14, 2019, Tanzania’s then Foreign Affairs minister Palamagamba Kabudi signed a notice of withdrawal, and deposited it with the African Union Commission on November 21, 2019. The withdrawal took effect on November 22, 2020. But, after the death of president John Magufuli in March, President Samia Suluhu’s administration declared that Tanzania had not exited.

Liberata Mulamula, the current Foreign Affairs minister, said that the country wanted its citizens to first exhaust the local court processes before proceeding to the African Court.

“We have not withdrawn from the court. That is why Tanzania is still the headquarters of the court. We cannot withdraw and still host the court’s headquarters,” she added.

Her sentiments were later echoed by Vice President Philip Mpango.

“Tanzania hasn’t withdrawn from the African Court. Instead, the country has withdrawn from the Declaration made under Article 34 (6) of the Protocol on the African Charter for the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which permits individuals and non-government organisations to directly access the court,” he told delegates.

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