[VIDEO] African Court rules out trying Uhuru and Ruto

The African Court has no jurisdiction to handle crimes against humanity charges facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at The Hague, its president said on Sunday.

Lady Justice Sophia Akuffo, however, said there were plans by the African Union to expand the courts jurisdiction.

Speaking to journalists at Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, Lady Justice Akuffo said recommendation on the expansion of the courts work is expected to be tabled before the AU Heads of State and Governments Summit in January 2014 before being voted for.

A team of experts is working on the recommendation, said Lady Justice Akuffo.

Among the issues the experts are deliberating on is definition of unconstitutional change of government following the Arab Spring that swept through Egypt and Libya.

An AU summit had proposed that the court be strengthened to handle cases facing President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto, among others.

But on Sunday, Lady Justice Akuffo said the court as presently constituted could not handle criminal cases.

We are only a court of human and peoples rights. However, if expanded, the African Court will be a different thing altogether, she said.

She said that charges are not also brought against individuals in the African Court. It encourages exhaustion of local remedies before issues are taken to it, she added.

She said handling criminal cases has financial implications, requires legal structures, protection of witnesses, incarceration and custody of people while standing trial.

Lady Justice Akuffo, who was accompanied by Mr Justice Kimelabalou Aba, said her court does not have a legal relationship with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

We are completely different institutions. The ICC has criminal jurisdiction yet we dont. However, when we are expanded we will have that relationship. Currently, we have a relationship with the Banjul Commission, said Lady Justice Akuffo.

Human rights

The court  which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, and is currently handling a case involving the Ogiek community  said protection of human rights is the state responsibility.

The African Court on Human and Peoples Rights officials are in Kenya to enhance human rights protection in the country through raising awareness about the court functions, its jurisdiction and procedures before it.

They will hold discussions with various government officials with a view to encouraging the State to make a declaration allowing individuals and NGOs direct access to the court.

The court was established by African countries to ensure protection of human and peoples rights on the continent.

It complements and reinforces the functions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

The court was established through Article 1 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. To date, only the following states have ratified the protocol: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote de Ivoire, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia and Uganda.




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