OPENING STATEMENT FOR THE SENSITIZATION SEMINAR ON THE PROMOTION OF THE AFRICAN COURT ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
BY ADVOCATE SHALE SHALE (PRESIDENT OF THE LAW SOCIETY OF LESOTHO)
7TH JULY 2015
Allow me to first pay my respects to GOD, the Almighty who has blessed us with this beautiful day;
His Majesty, King Letsie III;
The Right Honourable, the Prime Minister and Ministers of His Majesty’s Government;
The President of the Court of Appeal of Lesotho;
The Chief Justice of the Kingdom of Lesotho and Honourable Judges of the High Court of Lesotho;
Our distinguished guests, Your Excellencies, Judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Justice Gerard Niyungeko, Justice Tambala, Justice Matusse and Members of the Delegation;
Senior Government Officials herein present;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
All protocol is observed.
Greetings! It is an honour and privilege, to stand on behalf of the Law Society of Lesotho and extend a warm welcome, to our distinguished guests, the delegation of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights as well as the representatives of different stakeholders such as the Government Ministries and Departments, Civil Society Organisations, Academia and Media.
As indicated in the invitations extended to each one of us, the objectives of today’s seminar are:
- To raise public awareness about the African Court in the Kingdom of Lesotho;
- To create a better understanding of the Court to the public at large in our country;
- But most importantly, to encourage the Government of Lesotho to deposit a declaration under Article 34 (6) of the Protocol establishing the Court in order to enable individuals and NGOs direct access to the Court;
- To sensitise prospective Applicants on how to access the Court, including its rules of procedure;
- To encourage use of the Court for rendering advisory opinions.
Honourable Minister, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen;
I know that as you received the invitations, some of you were quietly asking yourselves, what is this animal called the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights? How is it going to help us here in Lesotho? What are its powers and limitations? And many other questions. I can assure you that the day has come for you to get all the answers to your many questions. I am sure we shall all relax to enjoy an illuminating presentation on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
All I can say in a nutshell is that the African Court is a Regional Human Rights Tribunal with advisory and contentious jurisdiction, established in terms of the Protocol to the African Charter on establishment of the African Court, (1998), which entered into force in January 2005. The Court is established to complement the protective mandate of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Honourable Minister, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests;
It is important to note that, Lesotho is a party to several human rights instruments adopted under the auspices of the African Union, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights 1981, the Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women 2003, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990, to mention but a few. While this massive ratification is commendable, however, it does not translate to enjoyment of the rights contained in those instruments until the time when the rights contained therein have been brought closer to the individuals. This need is also reflected in paragraph 3 of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which provides as thus:
“… it is essential, if man is not compelled to have recourse to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
The African Court therefore, is meant to ensure that this ‘rule of law’ anticipated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is applied in the protection of human rights by, inter alia, holding States Parties accountable where they have violated the human rights as well as giving advisory opinions to States Parties so as to give content to human rights at the domestic level.
Apart from ratifying the human rights instruments over which the Court has jurisdiction, the Government of Lesotho has also extended its cooperation and support to the Court by allowing one of its own Judges of the High Court, Her Ladyship K.J. Guni to be one of the first judges to sit and serve the Court from 2006 to 2010. This I believe shows Lesotho’s commitment to ensuring that the Court is fully functional. The question then that immediately comes to mind is why has our country not deposited its declaration in terms of Article 34 (6) of the Protocol for twelve (12) years now after making a good move of ratifying the Protocol on the 28th October 2003?
Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This sensitisation seminar comes at an opportune moment to the Kingdom of Lesotho. At the time when many human rights scholars and activists are faced with both theoretical and practical questions regarding protection of human rights and the ability of international mechanisms to solve national ailments. Difficult times like this one, so history reflects, are a breeding ground for development of human rights jurisprudence.
We hope and pray that Lesotho will be the next African Union Member State to deposit a declaration permitting direct access to the Court by individuals and NGOs after exhaustion of local remedies and further that our country will utilise the advisory jurisdiction of the Court.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
We look forward to your full participation and openness in all the discussions we shall have in this short available time since every opinion, question or comment no matter how insignificant it may appear to be to somebody, it will go a long way in the promotion of awareness of the Court’s role in the African human rights system. That contribution will also go a long way to assist all role players in the encouragement of our beautiful Kingdom to deposit its declaration allowing direct access to the Court. Once we achieve this goal then we will be able to pat ourselves on the back as we will see the Court receiving applications and all our people vindicate their rights.
Once again, welcome to the Mountain Kingdom and lets us have a fruitful discussion. May God bless all of you.