The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has rolled out a comprehensive programme to engage Law Schools and universities to clarify to the next generation of lawyers the purpose and objective of the African Court.
It also seeks to use the engagement with up-and-coming lawyers to understand the operations and powers of the African Continental Court.
In view of the broader scope to school especially law students on its tenets, the African Court has set up Law Schools and Research Centres which will serve as a focal point for universities.
Dr Micha Wiebusch, a Senior Legal Officer at African Court speaking at a workshop for law students at Law School of Tanzania said that African Court does not sit as an appellate body against national courts.
Instead, it evaluates facts that usually take place in the national context, but it evaluates them in relation to international human rights standards; also, it does not have criminal jurisdiction, or at least, not yet.
“So, we do not establish individual criminal responsibility in relation to international crimes, such as genocide, aggression, or war crimes.
“You would be surprised how often people confuse our mandate with that of the International Criminal Court in The Hague or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which also had its headquarters in Arusha and still has some residual mechanism there,” he said.
Dr. Wiebusch explained that the engagement with universities also provided an opportunity to share insights with scholars on the functioning of the African Court and thereby subjected itself to “fair” and “constructive” criticism, voiced in scientific publications.
“The African Court does take notice of scholarly articles and books that concern it, and it does happen that we change our working methods as a result of an academic study and the evidence-based recommendations contained in them. “This is just to say, that academic writing on the African Court can and has had an impact on the way it operates”.
Dr. Wiebusch said the African Court considers law schools and more specifically law students to be particularly important stakeholders because “you are the future of the legal profession.
“In some few years’ time, you will be able to qualify as a registered lawyer on the roster of legal counsel of the African Court and you may be invited by the Court to represent clients before it through its legal aid scheme.
“But even before then, you may be working in law firms or in the ministry of justice, and to strengthen your legal arguments before national courts you may be referring to the case-law of the African Court on key issues such as fair trial rights, both in criminal and civil proceedings, or to our case law dealing with electoral matters, or on equality issues.
“Alternatively, it is possible that you may even have a case that you litigate directly before the African Court and will need to be familiar with the procedures of litigation before the African Court.