Well-established human rights and judicial groups confer on the challenges ahead
CAIRO: An international conference was held in Cairo to discuss the African Court on Human Rights, taking its establishment and the challenges it faces as the main points of discussion.
The organizers were the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession, a regional institution interested in the concept of justice, in particularly criminal justice; the African Coalition for the African Court on Human Rights (ACACHR), a coalition that gathers a number of African human rights organizations, and was established to find and support the court when it came into effect last month; and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the largest and oldest rights organization in the world.
The African Union adopted the protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, on June 10, 1998. Twenty-two African states had ratified the protocol as of February 2006, including Algeria and Libya but not Egypt.
The primary objective for the creation of a human rights court is to reinforce the mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights and to interpret the human rights charter.
Participants in the conference were law experts from around the world, the majority from African countries, and lecturers from pioneering regional courts for human rights, like the European Court for Human Rights and the American Court for Human Rights.
The Western speakers shared information about the background and procedures of their courts. They also talked about their perception of mistakes that had been made, which could be avoided in the African Court. They also touched upon what they consider to be challenges to the establishment of the African Court on Human Rights.
One of the main challenges in the African court would be the cultural and religious diversity in Africa, and how the African court would try to harmonize those differences, explains Alan Miller, director of McGrigors Rights, an international human rights consultancy.
Judge Ashraf El-Baroudy, a member of the Egyptian Judges Club and a judge in Alexandria s Court of Cassation, was amongst the participants. He was one of the Egyptian judges who had been on strike and organized a sit-in inside the Judges Club previously this year in protest of the disciplinary hearing involving two reformist judges who had complained about vote-rigging in last year s parliamentary elections.
The court won t affect the matter of judicial independence in Egypt, he said. The African Court is a very promising trial, and it needs continuous effort to have a tangible effect on social issues, which are a lot more complicated than what we see in Western Europe. Even though, I support the idea, hopefully the coming generations would benefit from it.