Côte d’Ivoire pulls out of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights protocol
On Wednesday 29 April, one day after Guillaume Soro’s conviction, Côte d’Ivoire announced that it was withdrawing from “the declaration of jurisdiction provided for in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”.
The Ivorian government, which didn’t wish to comply with the decision of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) ordering the country to suspend its arrest warrant for dissident leader Guillaume Soro, recently opted to quite simply withdraw from the protocol. In the event of rights violations, the protocol allows citizens and civil society organisations of signatory countries to refer directly to the Court headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania.
“The Ivorian government decided on Tuesday, 28 April 2020, to withdraw from the declaration of jurisdiction provided for in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” government spokesperson Sidi Tiémoko Touré announced in a statement.
“This decision has been taken without prejudice to the government’s commitment to remain party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” he added.
The announcement comes one day after the former president of the National Assembly and presidential candidate Guillaume Soro was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The proceedings were recently put on shaky ground by the Court. In a decision made public on 22 April, the Court ordered Côte d’Ivoire to “stay the execution of the arrest warrant issued against Guillaume Kigbafori Soro.”
Attack on the country’s sovereignty
The Ivorian government’s decision follows on “the serious and intolerable actions that the African Court has allowed itself” and which “not only undermine the sovereignty of the state of Côte d’Ivoire […] but are also likely to cause serious disruption to the internal legal order of states,” Touré said in the statement.
Touré was backed by two government members: Ally Coulibaly, Minister of African Integration and Ivorians Abroad as well as Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Aimée Zebeyoux, Secretary of State for Human Rights.
Court’s decision: “unacceptable”
The Court took “a political decision insofar as it confers a certain criminal immunity on someone who wants to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. It’s unacceptable,” said Coulibaly while at the entrance hall of the Ivorian president’s residence.
He added: “We can’t allow our jurisdictions to be weakened by adhering to the declaration of jurisdiction provided for in the protocol. We can’t allow the foundations of the rule of law to be undermined.”
“Côte d’Ivoire’s decision is a step backwards for human rights in the country. The withdrawal will deprive Ivorian individuals and NGOs of the valuable possibility to submit complaints when their rights are trampled on and when they aren’t able to secure justice from the courts in their own countries,” said Alice Banens, Legal Advisor for Africa at Amnesty International.
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“This withdrawal is also yet another frontal attack on the regional human rights system. It comes in a pre-electoral context where the Ivorian government has multiplied its attacks on political opponents and dissident voices,” she said.
The withdrawal isn’t set to take effect until a year from now.
However, if the Court were to reach any new decisions concerning Côte d’Ivoire between now and then, the Ivorian authorities wouldn’t consider themselves bound to comply with them.
The government’s announcement didn’t come as a surprise. President Alassane Ouattara had thought over the idea early in the week, after conferring with his close allies and certain ministers. Côte d’Ivoire isn’t the first country to pull out of the Court protocol. On 17 April, Benin did the same. And before Benin, Rwanda.