The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Commission), meeting at its 77th Ordinary Session, held in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania, from 20 October to 9 November 2023:
RECALLING its mandate to promote and protect human and peoples' rights in Africa, under Article 45 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Charter);
RECALLING ALSO Article 7 of the African Charter which stipulates that every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard by a competent, independent and impartial judicial body and 26 on the obligation of States Parties to guarantee the independence of the Courts and the establishment and improvement of appropriate national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter.
CONSIDERING its resolutions ACHPR/Res.4(XI)92 on the right to recourse and fair trial; ACHPR/Res.21(XIX)96 on the Respect and the Strengthening of the Independence of the Judiciary and ACHPR/Res.41(XXVI)99 on the right to fair trial and legal aid in Africa;
CONSIDERING ALSO its guidelines and principles on the right to a fair trial and legal assistance in Africa, the call for its implementation, its incorporation into the national legislation of the States Parties to the Charter and meticulous respect for its provisions;
FURTHER CONSIDERING that Agenda 2063 envisages an Africa in which there is a universal culture of good governance, democratic values, gender equality and respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law;
NOTING THAT the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrines in particular the principles of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial court established by law;
NOTING ALSO THAT the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers protect the right of lawyers to carry out their professional duties independently, without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or undue interference;
FURTHER NOTING that the United Nations Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, adopted by the UN in 1985, state that the independence of the judiciary must be guaranteed by States and enshrined in the constitutions and national laws, and that it is the responsibility of all governmental and other institutions to respect it;
CONCERNED by the emergence of unconstitutional changes of government which have become a threat to the independence of the judiciary, civic space, as well as political activists, human rights defenders and even lawyers;
ALSO CONCERNED by the recurrence of cases of partisan use of justice to restrict civic space, carry out reprisals against and persecute activists, human rights defenders, judges, lawyers and others judicial actors;
CONVINCED THAT the consolidation of the rule of law and democracy in the States Parties to the Charter implies respect for the separation of powers and the strengthening of the independence of judicial systems;
The Commission decides:
i.To appoint the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and Focal Point on Reprisals as Focal Point on Judicial Independence in Africa;
ii.To entrust him with the following tasks:
Examine current trends that undermine judicial independence and hinder the free exercise of judicial professions on the continent, looking among others at political motivations against judicial systems and the judicial profession; and administrative and legislative practices limiting the independence of the judiciary in the context of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights;
Study specific issues relating to the right to a fair trial and the independence of the judiciary on the continent, as well as the institutional structure, with a view to developing a series of actions aimed at preserving the independence of the judiciary and the practice of the judicial professions in Africa.
Undertake a study on the effectiveness on the administration of justice in Africa;
Inform the Commission of practices and models that have a negative impact on the independence of the judiciary and the practice of the judicial profession;
Prepare a comprehensive report to be presented to the Commission and, subsequently, annual reports on the state of judicial independence and the practice of the judicial profession in Africa, focusing on threats and reprisals against lawyers, magistrates and judges in the exercise of their functions and make appropriate recommendations.
iii.Requests the Focal Point to work with the professional Institutions and organisations of magistrates and lawyers as well as with other NGOs specialized in judicial matters.
Done at Arusha, Tanzania, on 9 November 2023