Gambia: Declaration allowing access to African Court a major advance for access to justice

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) welcomes the formal declaration of the Gambia to allow individuals and certain non-governmental organizations with observer status access to complain of human rights violations against the Gambian State at the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights.  

Gambia became the ninth African State to make the declaration to allow individual access the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights. The ICJ called on other States to follow suit rapidly.

“The Gambian government should be applauded, but more African States need to step up to reinforce their international human rights obligations by allowing victims of violations direct access to the Court and to empower the African Human Rights Court to do the work for which it was set up.” said Arnold Tsunga, Director of the ICJ African Regional Progamme. “It is only through extensive depositing of article 34(6) by the majority of African states that the court can be truly an African Court”.

In addition to granting access to individuals, the Declaration made under article 34(6) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights triggers the courts jurisdictional competency under article 5(3) to allow for a limited number of NGOS access.

“The promise of human rights protection under the African human rights system can only be realized when political leaders match rhetoric with such action as allowing individuals to seek an effective remedy by direct access to regional human rights mechanisms like the African Court,” added Arnold Tsunga.

The ICJ emphasized that despite the significant human and material resources invested in the Court since its establishment in 2006, the African Court has been unavailable to great majority of Africans, since very few States had so far entered the declaration recognizing its competency.

Other States that have previously made declarations include Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d´Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Tanzania and Tunisia.

Although, complaints of human rights violation can only be brought directly before the Court against the nine States that have made the declaration, victims of human rights violation of almost all African States can already bring claims against other states through the non-judicial communication procedure available at the African Commission on Human and Peoples´ Rights.

The ICJ stressed while access to the Commission’s procedures is important, it was not an adequate substitute for the kind of binding legal remedy that can be only ordered by a Court. The ICJ noted poor rate of compliance with decisions of the African Commission.


Arnold Tsunga, Director of the Africa Regional Programme, International Commission of Jurists C: +263 77 728 3248, E: arnold.tsunga(a)

Solomon Ebobrah, Senior Legal Advisor, Africa Regional Programme, International Commission of Jurists.C: +234 803492 7549, E: solomon.ebobrah(a) 

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