By PV Staff Writers
Mr. Gibril Gbanabome Koroma, CEO and Publisher of the Patriotic Vanguard, one of Sierra Leone’s leading newspapers, has been invited by the African Union to attend a conference for the media in Arusha, Tanzania, November 21-22. The conference will bring together legal and media experts from the continent of Africa and beyond.
Titled Continental Conference for the Media, the event will specifically focus on the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and courts in the continent in general.
The concept note of the conference states the following:
In every democratic society, the Courts play a key role in the upholding of the rule of law and ensuring justice, thereby contributing significantly to the maintenance of peace and stability. These outcomes, in turn, are grounded upon the public’s confidence in the independence and accessibility of the Courts. In order to build this confidence the Courts have to ensure that they publicize their activities so as to keep the public informed and aware of the scope of their access to justice.
The media plays a crucial role in publicizing the activities of the Courts and bridging the gap between the Courts and the public. Therefore, it is essential for any Court to develop linkages with the media.
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“the Court”) was created by the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (“the Protocol”), to complement the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (“the African Commission”), in the protection of human rights in the continent. The Court has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned. It is the only continental human rights body mandated to adopt legally binding judgments on human rights issues.
The Court became operational in 2006 and has its seat in Arusha, The United Republic of Tanzania.
To date, only twenty six (26) Countries have ratified the Protocol establishing the Court, the most recent ratification having been made in October, 2010.
Under Article 34(6) of the Protocol, apart from ratifying the Protocol, a State party thereto has to make a declaration accepting the competence of the Court to directly receive cases from individuals and NGOs. To date, only seven States, that is, Burkina Faso, Côte d’ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda and Tanzania have made such a declaration.
As at March 2013, the Court had received only 27 applications, 19 of which have been determined and 8 are pending. The Court has also received 5 requests for advisory opinion.
The success of the Court as a mechanism for human rights protection necessitates that all African Union (AU) Member States not only ratify the Protocol but also make the declaration allowing individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court. Such universal ratification and declaration will greatly enhance the Court’s capacity to discharge its mandate and assure the optimal benefits to the people of Africa.
The non-ratification of the Protocol, by the majority of the AU Member States and the lack of deposit, by State Parties to the Protocol, of the declaration allowing direct access to the Court for NGOs and individuals might be attributable to the dearth of information and publicity about the Court and its role in the protection of human rights among State and non- State actors, It is therefore necessary that accurate information about the existence, role, relevance and operations of the Court be disseminated to various publics.
The participation of the media is indispensable in the protection of human rights on the continent, and it is crucial that the media disseminates accurate and insightful information to the population about institutions such as the Court, which could offer them redress if rights are violated. In order to further publicise the work of the Court it is necessary that the Court explores how to build an effective relationship with the media in AU Member States. It is on this premise that the Court is organising a
Continental Conference for the Media.
Objectives of the Conference
11.Overall Objective: The overall objective of the Conference is to enhance the protection of human rights through the Court developing linkages between it and the media in AU Member States.
12.Specific Objectives: The specific objectives of the Conference are as follows:
To acquaint the media with the African Human Rights System
To acquaint the media with a complete information about the Court;
To explore and provide to the media a deeper understanding of the Court (a case in point being that the Court is commonly confused with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights);
To foster in media practitioners a greater appreciation of their role as multipliers of information to African citizens, concerning the existing Continental means for protection of their Rights, in general and the modalities for judicial redress through the Court, in particular.
To explore the various interaction mechanisms available to the media
To create a better understanding of the African Court to the public.
Mr. Koroma (photo) has accepted the invitation and has notified the AU that he will be in Tanzania for this very important conference.