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Mar 06 2016

Communique: Civil Society Meeting to Advance Victim Participation before the African Court

Arusha, March 9th, 2016 - TrustAfrica and the Coalition for an Effective African Court (CEAC) convened African civil society from across the continent in Arusha from March 8th to 9th 2016, to promote their engagement with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AcHPR).

Africa has indeed played a pioneering role in the establishment of courts with international criminal jurisdiction, spearheaded by civil society advocacy and the independent contributions of a number of governments. While AU initiatives place decision and policy makers at the center of discussions on ICJ, they also recognize the role played by African civil society in the development of ICJ practice in Africa. The meeting sought to distill best practices in terms of victims’ participation in Africa in order to advance victims’ rights and access to justice through the African Charter establishing the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.

 Key guests included H.E. Ambassador Fafre Camara, Malian Ambassador in Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union, Justice S.E. Augustino Ramadhani, President of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, lawyers, and advocates from Mali, Burundi, Kenya, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Niger, and Senegal, among many others.

Discussions highlighted the need to recognize developments at the African Union that now place victims at the center of accountability processes and look beyond military interventions. This paradigm shift maintains the value of cultural norms and customs in addressing the legacies of violence. Within this framework, the African Charter establishing the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights can guide these processes as we focus on its strengths and not on its limitations/weaknesses. CSO activity geared at engaging these mechanisms to improve victims’ access to justice must learn lessons from existing innovations, and be coordinated to ensure success.

Presentations highlighted innovations existing within various regional mechanisms including the ECOWAS Court, the East African Court of Justice, and ad hoc tribunals such as the Extraordinary African Chambers. Lessons were also drawn from national developments around victim participation in both civil and common-law systems from Uganda, the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, and Kenya. These conversations set the scene for strategic discussions to develop a concrete action plan including advocacy objectives, identifying relevant events and stakeholders to be targeted, and a tentative timeline.

Despite reservations about the Malabo Protocol and some of the weaknesses of the African Charter, civil society representatives and legal experts at the meeting agreed that it is critical to combine legal and technical expertise with political strategy and pragmatism to advance goals for justice and accountability. Concluding discussions identified key priority areas for reform, which include:

  • Enlarging the provisions around victims’ rights, to ensure that these are not just procedural but substantive and incorporated directly into the Protocol.

  • Working in synergy to raise awareness, build capacity, and undertake targeted advocacy with a wide range of stakeholders at the national, regional, and continental level

  • Effectively engaging the media to raise public awareness about the need for these institutions to be strengthened and mobilize citizens to push for state declarations recognizing the authority of the ACHPR

  • Targeting key regional events such as the AU Summits and African Commission Sessions to engage with key stakeholders who are central to the reform of these instruments

In the medium to long term, the detailed strategies, activities, and timelines agreed on at the meeting will serve as a critical tool for civil society action to improve access to the African Court and advance justice.

About the Organizers: TrustAfrica aims to strengthen and support civil society efforts to advance domestic and regional accountability mechanisms. The CEAC works to ensure that the AcHPR and the African Commission are effective, accessible and credible, providing justice and a recourse to victims of human rights violations. Those interested in additional information should contact the organizers: Nadia Iya, TrustAfrica at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Sophia Ebby, CEAC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Download the press release here.

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