The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court) carried out a sensitisation visit to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from October 3 – 7, 2022 with an invitation from the government. The primary objective of the sensitization visit was to create awareness on the judicial function of the African Court, establish engagement with relevant stakeholders, to encourage Ethiopia to ratify the Protocol Establishing the African Court (the Court Protocol) and to deposit the declaration which allows individuals and NGOs to directly access the Court.
The Court’s delegation led by its president Honourable Lady Justice Imani Aboud comprised of the Vice-President Honourable Justice Blaise Tchikaya, Judge of the Court Honourable Justice Stella Anukam and the Registrar Dr. Robert Eno and Officers of the Court’s Registry.
During its visit to Ethiopia, the delegation carried out courtesy visits with high-level government officials including the Minister of Justice, the President of the Federal Supreme Court and the State Minister of Foreign Affairs. The African Court also met with Commissioners of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and discussed mutual areas of cooperation and advocacy for the ratification of the Court Protocol by Ethiopia.
Sensitisation Seminar on the Role and Function of the African Court
On October 4, 2022 the Court in collaboration with EHRC organized a seminar on the role and function of the African Court with the objective of promoting the Court’s work, strengthening partnership with governmental and non-governmental institutions and identifying areas of collaboration between the Court and key national stakeholders.
Participants at the Seminar included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Federal Supreme Court, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Inter-Governmental Organizations, representatives of the diplomatic community, representatives of African Union (AU) bodies, civil society organizations (CSOs) and academia.
In her remarks, the President of the African Court, Honourable Lady Justice Imani Aboud, expressed gratitude to the government of Ethiopia for granting authorisation to carry out the sensitisation visit. She urged Ethiopia as a founding Member and host country of the AU to set an example for African countries by ratifying the Court Protocol.
Dr. Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of EHRC for his part stated, “regional human rights bodies such as the African Court complement our national mechanisms, and it is important to enhance understanding about these mechanisms at the domestic level including their mandate, work and how to engage with them.”
In his speech, H.E. Fekadu Tsega, State Minister at the Ministry of Justice, underscored Ethiopia’s support to regional bodies such as the African Court and stated that Ethiopia would consider ratification of the Court Protocol. In her closing remarks, H.E. Meaza Ashenafi, President of the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia, expressed the readiness of her office to work and cooperate with the African Court, stressing that “there are ample areas where the Federal Supreme Court and the African Court can collaborate”.
Training on the Work of the African Court and Opportunities for Engagement for EHRC and CSOs
On October 5, 2022, the African Court and EHRC organized a training on the work of the African Court and opportunities for engagement for EHRC and CSOs, to strengthen the capacity of EHRC and CSOs to engage with the Court and advocate for the ratification of the Court Protocol by Ethiopia.
In her opening remarks, Rakeb Messele, Deputy Chief Commissioner of EHRC, underscored the importance of the Court in ensuring state compliance with regional and international human rights standards and noted the crucial role of EHRC and CSOs in supporting the mandate of the Court. Lensa Biyena, Executive Directress of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association, noted the need to continue developing the capacity of Ethiopian legal professionals including judges for enhanced engagement with regional mechanisms and improved access to justice.
The training highlighted different avenues and impact-oriented engagements through which national human rights institutions and CSOs can assist the Court’s mandate of protecting human rights, inter alia, by advocating for the ratification of the Court Protocol and the deposition of the declaration under Article 34(6) as well as disseminating information about the Court’s work. The training raised awareness about the mandate, functions, and work of the African Court; highlighted the notable jurisprudence of the African Court and identified opportunities for EHRC and CSOs to continue engagement with the African Court.
The first of its kind Memorandum of Understanding Signed between the African Court and the Federal Supreme Court
On October 12, 2022 the African Court and the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia signed a first of its kind Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between a national judicial organ and the African Court, with the aim of strengthening collaboration on mutual areas of interest such as enhanced capacity of national judicial organs. This is expected to be emulated in other African countries to strengthen cooperation between the African Court and national judicial organs.