East African Court of Justice, Arusha, Tanzania, 24th October, 2023: The President of the Court, Hon. Justice Nestor Kayobera received a team from the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the East African Court of Justice premises. His Lordship warmly welcomed the delegation to the East African Court of Justice and highly appreciated the visit of the Working Group to the Court, which was the first of its kind.
Ms. Aua Balde’ Chairperson of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances informed His Lordship that the Working Group is composed of five independent experts of balanced geographical representation in the continent. She further briefed him on establishment of the Working Group in 1980, by the Commission on Human Rights, pursuant to its resolution 20 (XXXVI), as the first United Nations Human Rights thematic mechanism established with a universal mandate.
She highlighted that the mandate of the Working Group was most recently extended by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 45/3 (A/HRC/RES/45/3) to assist families in determining the fate and whereabout of their disappeared relatives, placed outside the protection of the law. That, in its humanitarian capacity, the Working Group serves as a channel of communication between family members of victims of enforced disappearances and other sources to report cases of disappearances, and acts tantamount to enforced disappearances, and the Governments and Non-State Actors concerned, in accordance with its method of work.
On the purpose of visit to the EACJ, Ms. Balde’ elucidated that it was aimed at sharing with the Court some of the main issues and emerging trends concerning disappearances, identifying good practices in the implementation of international human rights standards set out in the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances that was adopted by the UN General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18th December 1992 as well as sharing lessons learned, challenges and areas of common interest and potential collaboration.
Ms. Ana Lorena Delgadillo Perez, a member of the Working Group also added that the purpose of the visit was also learn to learn about the work of the EACJ, its jurisprudence and identify possible areas for cooperation.
His Lordship, Hon Justice Nestor Kayobera informed the group that, the EACJ is a two chamber Court with both the First Instance Division and the Appellate Division composed of Judges from the EAC Partner States. He further informed the Group that, access to the Court requires no exhaustion of local remedies and that, the Court is accessible to any resident in the EAC Partner State regardless of citizenship, as long as the basis for filing the matter is that there has been a violation of the Treaty and other Community law. His Lordship also shared the statistics of cases received by the Court since its inception, and expressed concerns on the growing backlog of cases resulting from the ad hoc nature of the services of the Judges, limited budget to fund sufficient Court sessions which recently resulted in the postponement of court sessions, something which will no doubt negatively impact the Court.
Judge President added that, the EACJ does not have express human rights jurisdiction but, on the basis of its mandate under Article 23(1) of the EAC Treaty which is to ensure adherence to law in the interpretation, application of and compliance with the Community laws, as well as Articles 6(d) and 7(2) of the Treaty under which the EAC Partner States undertook to abide by the principles of good governance including maintenance of universally accepted standards of human rights, the Court can receive cases even those with human rights allegation and determine within its interpretative mandate. Justice Kayobera highlighted the Court’s ground breaking decision in = Ref. No. 1 of 2007 James Katabazi & 21 Others vs the Secretary General of the EAC & the Attorney General of Uganda which shaped the course of human rights litigation at the Court. His Lordship concluded by pointing out that Partner States have been diligent in implementing the Court’s decisions, which is a show of confidence in the EACJ.
Recommendations made during the meeting include; sharing of useful public documents and information, organizing exchange forums for experience sharing and capacity building for Judges on human rights matters, including enforced/involuntary disappearance and developing. It was agreed that the two institutions will negotiate and conclude a Memorandum of Understanding enhance their cooperation.
In attendance also was the Deputy Registrar Ms. Christine Mutimuara, the Court Administrator Mr. Ferdinand Ntakitije among other staff of the Court.
About the EACJ
The East African Court of Justice (EACJ or ‘the Court’), is one of the Organs of the East African Community established under Article 9 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community. The Court was established in November 2001, its key mandate is to ensure the adherence to law in the interpretation and application of and compliance with the EAC Treaty.
Arusha is the temporary seat of the Court until the Summit determines its permanent seat. The Court’s sub-registries are located in the capitals of the following Partner States: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania.
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East African Court of Justice.