The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights is a continental court established by the African Union aimed at ensuring the protection of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. It complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Court was established by the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in June 1998. The Protocol came into force on 25 January 2004 upon ratification by more than 15 AU member states.
The Court has jurisdiction over all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Protocol and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the country concerned.
To date, 30 member states have ratified the Protocol. According to the Article 5(1) of the Protocol and Rule 33 of the Rules of the Court, the Court may receive complaints and/or applications submitted by the Commission, from one of the 30 member states or African Intergovernmental Organizations.
According to Article 5(3) of the Protocol, individuals and NGOs with observer status before the Commission can only make complaints and/or applications where the concerned member state has signed the declaration pursuant to Article 34(6) of the Protocol (“Special Declaration”), accepting the jurisdiction of the Court to hear cases brought by individuals and NGOs. As of March 2016, only eight countries had made such a declaration, although reports suggest Rwanda has withdrawn its Special Declaration. To check who has signed up to the Protocol and the Special Declaration see The ACtHPR Monitor Country Tracker.
The Court is composed of eleven Judges, all nationals of Member States of the African Union. The President is assisted by a Registrar who performs registry, managerial and administrative functions of the Court. The Court officially started its operations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in November 2006, but in August 2007 it moved to its seat in Arusha, the United Republic of Tanzania.