The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), European Union (EU), World Bank, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) are sponsoring the 2nd Continental Judicial Dialogue, entitled “Connecting National and International Justice” from November 4 to 6, 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania. The dialogue will bring together members of national, regional, and continental courts and human rights bodies to share information for improving judicial administration, ensuring access to judicial protection of human rights within the African continent, and exchanging information and jurisprudence.
The proposed topics of discussion include: judicial reforms; recent developments and trends in human rights jurisprudence, particularly with respect to the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Banjul Charter), regional human rights instruments and domestic constitutions; continuing judicial education and management of judicial institutions; and experiences from other continents. See AfCHPR, Concept Note for the Second African Judicial Dialogue: “Connecting National and International Justice.”
President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Augustino Ramadhani, stated that the dialogue will include 200 delegates from African Union Member States, among them chief justices, presidents of supreme courts and constitutional courts, and members of academia, national judiciaries, and the media, among others. Justice Ramadhani also stated the dialogue will address human rights concerns with respect to electoral processes and noted that the dialogue will take place shortly before Uganda and other African countries are preparing for or holding elections. [KFM]
For more information about the Second Continental Judicial Dialogue, including the draft program and concept note, visit the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ website dedicated to the dialogue.
First Continental Judicial Dialogue
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights hosted the First Continental Judicial Dialogue with National Judiciaries from November 18 to 20, 2013 in Arusha, Tanzania. The purpose of the dialogue was to foster an exchange between national judiciaries, regional and continental courts, and quasi-judicial institutions to discuss cooperation with respect to sharing jurisprudence and best practices in order to promote human rights in Africa. The dialogue also discussed the advisory and contentious jurisdiction of the African Court and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The 74 participants included, among others, judges from the African Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the East African Court of Justice, and the Community Court of the Economic Community of West African States, and national supreme courts. See AfCHPR, Conclusions of the Continental Judicial Dialogue with National Judiciaries.
The participants made a number of recommendations at the conclusion of the dialogue, including the following:
- States should protect rights enshrined in international human rights instruments in their domestic legislation.
- States that have not yet done so should ratify the Protocol establishing the African Court and make the necessary declaration under Article 34(6), thereby granting the Court jurisdiction to hear more cases concerning human rights violations.
- The African Court and Commission should develop a database to foster the exchange of jurisprudence.
- National and regional judges should rely on international case in law in adjudicating human rights cases.
- Civil society should encourage national and international bodies to utilize the advisory jurisdiction of regional and continental courts.
- Human rights education should be included in school curricula, from primary to tertiary levels of education.
- The African Union (AU) should adopt a decision to institutionalize judicial dialogues.
- An African Centre of Judicial Excellence should be established to provide information on best practices concerning the administration of justice.
See id. at paras. 27-28.
Second Continental Judicial Dialogue
The African Union accepted the proposal from the First Continental Judicial Dialogue to institutionalize judicial dialogues; the Second Continental Judicial Dialogue is a follow-up to the First Continental Judicial Dialogue, held in 2013. The objective of the Second Continental Judicial Dialogue is to encourage information sharing between national, regional, and continental institutions, particularly with respect to human rights jurisprudence, given the increased litigation before these mechanisms. During the dialogue, there will be expert presentations as well as discussions in plenary and in groups among participants, which will include representatives of institutions such as the African Court and Commission, African Union Commission, Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS Court), COMESA Court of Justice, and the East African Court of Justice. The proposed themes for discussion include: judicial reforms, recent developments and trends in human rights jurisprudence, continuing judicial education and management of judicial institutions, and experiences from other continents. At the end of the dialogue an outcome document will be adopted. See AfCHPR, Concept Note for the Second African Judicial Dialogue: “Connecting National and International Justice.”
With respect to judicial reforms, the proposed discussion topics include: procedural reforms that enhance access to justice and ensure protection of rights, such as simplifying procedures and developing fast track processes; creating special court divisions to protect the rights of specific groups, such as families and juveniles; and incorporating technology in court processes to promote efficiency, including electronic filings of pleadings, payment of fees using money transfer systems, and using video conferencing for witness testimony. See id. at paras. 7-10.
The discussion on developments and trends in human rights jurisprudence would focus on landmark decisions, particularly with respect to economic, social, and cultural rights; freedom of expression; and the protection of vulnerable groups. See id. at para. 11.
The note proposes that participants discuss the formats and resources available for continuing education to build the capacity of judicial officers, as well as improving courts’ management systems to ensure that they provide services fairly and efficiently. See id. at paras. 12-13.
Regarding experiences from other continents, the proposed discussion topics include the compliance of decisions from regional courts in national courts and the creation of continental judicial networks, with input from Latin America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. See id. at paras. 14-16.