Ratification of African Court Protocol Symbolizes a New Hope for Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By: Chelsea Simpson

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Technical Director

ARUSHA, Tanzania – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ratified the African Court Protocol to the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights in an attempt to safeguard human rights.

Photo of protestors in Congo advocating for government officials to adhere to the constitution and peacefully conduct democratic elections. Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch, Congo.

On December 8, 2020, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) officially deposited its ratification instrument of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. This ratification is in support of the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Its purpose is to promote and protect human rights and freedoms in Africa.

The move to ratify the protocol is a positive step in the right direction for safeguarding human rights in DRC. Human rights violations have been a major concern in the DRC for many years, and increasingly so in the past three years due to the long-delayed presidential, legislative, and provisional elections. The delayed elections led to substantial unrest in the DRC. Amnesty International reports that by December 2019 over one million Congolese were forcibly displaced as a result of election violence. The violence also resulted in the death of over 1,500 civilians and thousands more injured. A widespread critique is that these continued human rights abuses are perpetuated by a lack of accountability by the perpetrators. Accordingly, DRC’s ratification of this protocol gives positive hope towards a new future of human rights protections in DRC.

This picture captures the unrest following delayed presidential elections of the Democratic Republic Congo. Photo Courtesy of PLUStvAfrica.

Although the ratification of the protocol is a bold step in the right direction for human rights in DRC, there is still more DRC can do to safeguard the human rights of its citizens. Currently, 31 member states of the African Union have ratified the protocol. Only six of the 31 member states to the protocol have deposited the Declaration under Article 34(6) to allow NGOs and individuals access to the African Court directly. Those six member states are Burkina Faso, Gambia, Mali, Malawi, and Tunisia.

Under Article 34(6) of the victims of human rights violations would be allowed to fiercely bring their cases to the African Court in hope of attaining justice. The allowance of this access to justice is a possible solution towards ending the culture of impunity and accountability in DRC.

This step for DRC is one of the necessary many on the journey of human rights protections. Swift action should be taken to continue the protection of human rights in DRC. Although the ratification of the protocol proves a willingness to acknowledge an issue of adherence to human rights protocols, further attempts to end the culture of impunity through signing the 34(6) declaration should be taken.

For further information, please see:

African Court – Democratic Republic of Congo Ratifies the Protocol on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights – 11 Dec. 2020

Amnesty International – The Democratic Republic of Congo 2019

BBC News – DR Congo Elections: Five Things to Know – 30 Dec. 2018

Jurist – DR Congo Ratifies Protocol Establishing African Court of Human Rights – 16 Dec. 2020  

The Citizen – DR Congo Now Ratifies African Court Protocol – 13 Dec. 2020

Author: Nadia Abed