26 January 2006
An African court to rule on cases of gross human rights violations on the continent is ready to start hearing cases, South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced on Tuesday.
Briefing the media after the closing session African Union heads of state summit in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday, Dlamini-Zuma said that while the location of the court was still to be finalised, the 11 judges had already been elected – including Bernard Ngoepe, South Africa’s Judge President of Transvaal.
In addition to hearing cases of gross human rights violations such as genocide, the court will also have the power to render an opinion, at the request of a member state, on any legal matter relating to AU human rights instruments.
“The court is ready to function,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
The heads of state have requested member states to submit their comments on the “draft single legal instrument” by writing to the AU Commission, with the closing date for submissions 31 March.
The draft single legal instrument is a document containing recommendations on the merger of the African court of human and people’s rights and the court of justice of the organisation.
The union has also decided that the merger document should be submitted to a joint meeting of the People’s Rights Commission and legal experts from member states for finalisation.
The final draft will be submitted and presented for review at the seventh ordinary session of the Executive Council and Assembly to take place in Bujumbura, Burundi in July.
The election of the 11 judges must still be ratified by the Assembly of Heads of State after the final draft has been approved. Their term of office ranges from two to six years.