[JURIST] Eleven African jurists [profiles] were sworn-in Monday as the first members of Africa's first continent-wide human rights court, the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR) [PICT backgrounder], sponsored by the African Union [official website]. The swearing-in took place at the end of a two-day AU summit in Banjul, Gambia. The legal experts vowed to "preserve, protect and defend" the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights [text, PDF], which will allow prosecutions for human rights infractions rather than just handing out resolutions and judgments, according to AU Commissioner for Political Affairs Julia Joiner [Wikipedia profile].
The ACHPR was officially created by a 1998 African Union protocol [text], but the appointment of the judges indicates that the panel will now start to carry out its intended functions, including interpreting and ruling upon any international laws or treaties ratified by the offending states. AU organizations, individuals, states, and non-governmental bodies will all be able to petition the court for rulings on human rights violations. Earlier this year, the Coalition for an Effective African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights [advocacy website] criticized [JURIST report] the process of nominating judges [JURIST report], suggesting that the AU commission should select the judges rather than leaving final determinations up to election by the member states. IRIN has more.