The Regional Africa Programme is premised on the understanding that one of the key challenges facing the promotion and protection of human rights in Africa is poor implementation of existing human rights standards and commitments. Increased respect for human rights in the region lies largely in making prevailing standards and institutions work in practice. Access to justice is important in securing and promoting human rights standards and institutions in Africa. For this reason, promoting access to justice in Africa forms the core of our engagement under the Regional Africa Programme.
The programme’s approach under this theme is twofold. First, we work directly with regional courts in Africa to address capacity and other gaps to strengthen implementation of regional human rights commitments in the region. We specifically work with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR), the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) and the Community Court of Justice (of the Economic Community of West African States) (CCJ-ECOWAS). These Courts play a significant role in holding States accountable and ensuring that they fulfil their huma rights commitments and obligations.
Secondly, we work in cooperation with and supporting other key stakeholders who are assessed to be able to exert an influence on enhancing access to justice in Africa. In this respect, we have worked closely with East Africa Law Society (EALS), Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) and African Court Coalition (ACC) to improve human rights performance of the regional courts including through increased awareness of the courts, their jurisprudence and implementation of their decisions.
The key results of the programme in this regard include enhanced capacity of the regional courts to carry out their mandate. For instance, RAP has supported study visits to Sweden and relevant European institutions for judges and the administrative staff of the regional courts. The study visit of the judges was on implementation of regional court decisions and lessons that they could learn from the European Court of Justice while that of the administrative staff focused on enhancing their knowledge on legal research and court library management. The programme also continues to support the needs of the courts with regard to research and literature support. The programme has also supported access to objective information from the courts. For instance, in 2020, RAP supported the development of EACJ website that has crucial information on the human rights decisions of the court. Through the live streaming option, the Court was able to have online court sessions thus ensuring that the Covid-19 pandemic did not deter access to justice. In addition, institutions such EALS, PALU and ACC have conducted a series of trainings that have enhanced the capacity and knowledge of the litigants who engage the regional courts.