19.03.08-AFRICA/JUSTICE - AFRICAN COURT EXPECTED TO START OPERATIONS AFTER JUNE

Arusha, 19 March 2008 (FH) - The Arusha-based first African Human Rights Court is expected to start its operations after June, according to the Court's President, Professor Gerard Niyungeko.
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He said currently the eleven-member Court's judges have convened in Arusha to finalise Rules of Procedure, which are crucial before starting any trials.

"We are expecting to be ready with the Rules by the latest June," the Court's President told reporters Wednesday.

He added:"When we have finalized them [Rules] we'll be ready to receive cases."

Professor Niyungeko also said that the Tanzanian government has allocated a plot in Tengeru, east of Arusha, for the construction of the Court's premises.

He said that they were in the final stages of recruiting initial staff of about 50 persons, three-quarter of whom will be professional staff from outside Tanzania. The eleven judges will also move into Arusha soon, he said.

Professor Niyungeko reminded that still only 24 member states out of 53 African Union (AU) have ratified the Protocol establishing the African Court.

"Out of the 53 member states of AU that are also party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, only 24 member states have so far ratified the Protocol," he said.

Recently he was quoted to have said that only Burkina Faso which had issued declaration accepting the Court's competence to entertain cases from individuals and NGOs.

Among early countries which have ratified the Protocol include Rwanda, which had seen one of the worst for human killings of the modern century in 1994.

Tanzania ratified the Protocol in February l2006, which paved the way for it to host the Court. Other countries are: Algeria, BurkinaFaso, Burundi, Coted'Ivoire, Comoros, Kenya, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Libya and Lesotho.

Madagascar,Mozambique,Mauritania,Mauritius,Nigeria,Niger, Rwanda, South Africa,Senegal,Tanzania,Togo,Tunisia and Uganda have also endorsed the protocol..

The Court, unlike other organs of AU, was empowered to give binding judgements which are enforceable against parties.

The Court was established by the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Protocol adopted by members states in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in June 1998. The Protocol entered into force in January 2004.

The Court started its operations in Addis Ababa in November 2006 but moved to its permanent seat in Arusha in August, last year.

It is only the President of the Court who is engaged as full-time and permanently resident at the Court's Headquarters. The other ten judges work part-time.

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