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PostHeaderIcon Access to the African Court

The following entities can take cases before the Court:

  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  • States Parties that were complainants or respondents to a complaint before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
  • State Parties that have an interest in a case;
  • African inter-governmental organisations; and
  • Non-governmental organisations with observer status at the African Commission and ordinary individuals – but only when the State Party against which the complaint is lodged has made a declaration allowing individuals or non-governmental organisations direct access to the Court.

As of August 2013 the following seven countries had made the declaration allowing for direct access: Burkina Faso; Mali; Malawi; Tanzania; Ghana; Rwanda and Côte d’Ivoire.

 

PostHeaderIcon Rwanda deposits Article 34(6) declaration allowing Direct Access of Individuals and NGOs to the African Court

The Republic of Rwanda has officially deposited the declaration under Article 34(6) of the Protocol establishing the Court which allows direct access of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with observer status before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Individuals to the Court.

Rwanda is the 6th country out of 26 which have ratified the Protocol establishing the Court to deposit such Declaration. Other countries which have deposited the Declaration include Tanzania, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Malawi. The declaration from the Republic of Rwanda was signed on 22 January 2013.

Article 34(6) of the Protocol requires each country which has made ratification of the Protocol to deposit a declaration accepting the competence of the Court to receive cases under article 5(3) of the same Protocol. The Court cannot entertain any application under article 5(3) involving a State Party which has not made such declaration.

 

PostHeaderIcon Practice Directions for Litigants

PRACTICE DIRECTIONS

In accordance with Rule 19 of the Rules of Court, the African Court adopted the following Practice Directions as a guide to potential litigants, at its 27th Ordinary Session held in Port-Louis, Mauritius in December 2012. They may be amended or supplemented as and when necessary, to meet the requirements of the Court.

General matters
1. The working hours and days of the Court for public hearing shall be as follows: 10h00 to 16h00 from Monday to Friday, or such other hours or days as the Court may deem fit.
2. The Registry shall be open to the public during the following hours, except on public holidays:
Monday to Friday: Morning: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m
Afternoon: 2 p.m to 5 p.m
3. The Ordinary Sessions of the Court are held in March, June; September, and December; or at any other period as the Court may deem fit. The Court may also hold extraordinary sessions.
4. Representatives of parties before the Court should be appropriately dressed in accordance with the decorum of the Court; and those who wish to robe before the Court may do so in the robe of their national courts.
5. Representatives shall introduce themselves to the Presiding Judge at least thirty (30) minutes prior to the commencement of hearing at 10h00.
6. There shall be a pre-hearing meeting between the presiding Judge and the representative of the parties.
7. During the pre-hearing meeting, the Registrar shall introduce the parties to the Presiding Judge.
8. A Judge on the bench shall be referred to only as 'Honourable Justice', while the bench shall be referred to as 'the Court'.
9. All communications from any representative to the Court shall be channeled through the Registrar. Under no circumstance shall a communication be addressed to the President or a Judge.
10. The withdrawal of a representative shall be communicated to the Registrar in writing, as soon as possible. Appointment of a new representative should be notified to the Registrar in writing.

Fees
11. There will be no filing fees.

Format, Content and Style of processes
12. An application filed at the Court must contain a cover sheet indicating the parties, leaving a space for the case number to be inserted once allocated, a heading indicating whether this is the Applicant's application, Respondent's response or Applicant's reply.
13. All processes shall, as far as possible, be typed on A4 page format. The font shall be Arial, in at least 12 pt and the line spacing 1.5. Footnotes shall be in 11 pt. The left and right margins shall be at least 2.54 em. Processes shall be submitted preferably in one of the following working languages of the Court: Arabic, English, French and Portuguese.
14. All pages shall be numbered consecutively.
15. All paragraphs shall be numbered on the left.
16. All numbers referenced in the written text shall be expressed in figures.
17. The application shall be accompanied by an executive summary of not more than 3 pages. The summary shall address the following: the facts, the nature of the complaint, evidence of exhaustion of local remedies, the alleged violation(s), the admissibility and the remedy requested from the Court.
18. The application shall make use of headings such as "facts"; "jurisdiction", "admissibility", "merits", "reliefs sought."
19. Where a process is filed by post or in hard copy, the written text shall appear on only one side of the page.
20. Where the applicant does not wish to have his or her identity disclosed, this should be expressly stated in the application as well as reasons for seeking anonymity.
21. In applications for anonymity, the applicant must indicate the preferred reference by initial, such as "Mr. X" or "Ms Y. "

Authentication of an Application to the Court
22. All processes submitted to the Court shall be signed by their duly mandated representatives.
23. Where a party has appointed a representative, the party shall send a document to prove the status of the representative.

Filings and Pleadings
24. An application may be filed by registered post, delivered by hand or by email, provided that in the latter case, the original is sent to the Registry of the Court in accordance with Rule 34(3) of the Rules of Court.
25. Once an application is allocated a case number by the Registrar, all subsequent pleadings shall bear this number.
26. The General List of cases will be open to the public. It will include the names of the parties, the date of receipt of the application and the nature of the matter
27. The Applicant shall paginate and index the application. All annexes, including evidence, such as photographs, judgments, orders, and correspondence shall be indicated separately. The annexes shall be numbered and indexed.
28. Thirty (30) days prior to a hearing date, each party shall submit the following to the Court:
Name of legal representative(s);
Contact details for each legal representative;
A paragraph of the nature of the matter and relief(s) sought;
A list of authorities used and copies of judgments to be relied upon;
The language to be used in presenting arguments.
29. Thirty (30) days prior to the public hearing, the Applicant and the Respondent may file heads of argument not exceeding five (5) pages.

Fixing of the date for public hearing
30. When the matter is ready for hearing, the Court shall fix the date for the Public hearing.
31. The Registrar shall inform the parties of the date fixed for the hearing. The parties may seek an adjournment, if necessary.
32. If a party seeks an adjournment within fifteen days of notification, the Court • shall decide and the Registrar shall inform the parties.
33. If any of the parties calls for an adjournment, the other party must be informed simultaneously.
34. If the Court decides to change the dates of the Public hearing, the Registrar will inform the parties.

Time Limits

General
35. It is the responsibility of each party to ensure that pleadings and any accompanying documents or evidence are delivered to the Court's Registry within the time limit set by the Court.

Extension of time-limits
36. A time limit set by the Court may be extended on request from a party.
37. A party seeking an extension of the time must make a request as soon as it has become aware of the circumstances justifying such an extension and, in any event, before the expiry of the time limit. It should state the reason for the extension.
38. Where the request is made after the expiry of the time limit, the request shall be made within a reasonable time after the expiry, giving reasons for the failure to comply with the time limit.
39. A request for extension of time shall be communicated to the other party(ies) to the case, and the latter shall be given fifteen (15) days within which to react to the request.
40. The decision to extend time is at the discretion of the Court.

Failure to comply with time limits
41. Failure to file a pleading within the time limits set out in this Practice Directions may result in the pleading concerned being considered as not having been filed.

Request to act as Amicus Curiae
42. An individual or organization that wishes to act as amicus curiae shall submit a request to the Court, specifying the contribution they would like to make with regard to the matter.
43. The Court will examine the request and determine within a reasonable time from the date of receipt of the request, whether or not to accept the request to act as amicus curiae.
44.If the Court grants the request to act as amicus curiae, the person or organization making the request shall be notified b.y the Registrar and invited to make submissions, together with any annexes, at any point during the proceedings. The Application, together with any subsequent pleadings relating to the matter for which the request for amicus curiae has been made, shall be put at the disposal of the person or organization.
45. The Court on its own motion may invite an individual or organization to act as amicus curiae in a particular matter pending before it.
46. The amicus curiae brief and its annexes submitted to the Court on a matter shall be immediately transmitted to all the parties, for their information.
47. The decision on whether or not to grant a request for amicus curiae is at the discretion of the Court.

Request for interim measures
48. The Court may issue interim measures in accordance with Article 27 of the Protocol and Rule 51 of the Rules of Court.
49. Any request for an interim measure lodged with the Court shall state reasons, specifying in detail the extreme gravity and urgency, and the irreparable harm likely to be caused as well as the relief sought.
50. Where the case is already pending before the Court, the request shall bear the case number.
51. The request shall be accompanied by all necessary supporting documents, in particular, if any, relevant domestic court or other decisions, together with any other material which could substantiate the applicant's allegations.
52. The Court will not consider requests for interim measures that are incomplete, or do not include sufficient information necessary to enable it make a decision. 53. Requests for interim measures shall be filled within a reasonable time.

General Provisions
54. In the interest of proper administration of justice, the Court shall not accept as representative of a party on a matter before it, an individual, who had within the last three (3) years performed the duties of a member of the Court, Registrar, Deputy Registrar or legal officer.

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