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African rights court criticized for failure to meet need

[JURIST] Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) [advocacy website] released a report [PDF text; press release] Wednesday criticizing the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights [official website] for its failure to effectively institute a court to adjudicate human rights issues on the continent. MRGI said the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights [AICT backgrounder] has not yet begun to hear cases despite its establishment 10 years ago, attributing the delay to disputes between the court and the commission and a lack of strong support from African Union (AU) [official website] countries. According to the report,

[t]here is no doubt about the scale of the needs. In the time that has elapsed, countless human rights violations have taken place on the African continent, with minorities and indigenous peoples particularly affected. As some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities on the continent, minority and indigenous people experience multiple human rights violations on a daily basis. Yet, due to their marginalized position, states are often indifferent to their plight. A strong legal mechanism is therefore essential if the rights of Africa’s minorities and indigenous peoples are to be realised. [sic]
Despite the setbacks, MRGI commended preliminary steps that had been made in selecting judges [PICT profiles], rules and locations for the court. The group urged the African countries which have not already signed the protocol [text] recognizing the court to do so. BBC News has more.

Although most human rights cases arising from the continent are currently tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], relations between the court and African groups have been strained [JURIST report] since the decision by ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile] to seek the arrest [JURIST report] of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir [BBC profile, JURIST news archive] on war crimes charges. Earlier this week, Moreno-Ocampo traveled to New York to gain support [press release; JURIST report] from UN and AU members for al-Bashir's arrest. In August, Bashir threatened to ignore any ICC-issued arrest warrant, saying he would not "deal with or respond to" the ICC. Moreno-Ocampo has criticized Sudan's own investigation [JURIST report] of war crimes in Darfur, calling it "part of the coverup." Sudan's justice minister recently appointed several prosecutors to investigate and try war crimes suspects in internationally monitored courts [JURIST reports].

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