Our Voices

Rwanda Restricting Access to African Human Rights Court

March 17, 2016 – Today Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights joined a group of 40 leading African and international human rights organizations in a joint statement criticizing the government of the Republic of Rwanda for withdrawing individual access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights – the highest human rights tribunal on the continent. The Rwandan government made the declaration of its withdrawal days before its recent hearing in the case of Victoire Ingabire before the Court and failed to make an appearance in the case. The move signals another concerning development in the human rights situation in Rwanda where the government has had an increasingly heavy hand in severely restricting civic and political space.

The statement is available in English and French (below):

Joint Civil Society Statement on Rwanda’s Withdrawal of its Article 34(6) Declaration from the Protocol on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The recent decision by the government of the Republic of Rwanda to withdraw its article 34(6) declaration of the Protocol on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol) represents a significant setback for human rights protection in the country and across Africa.

As members of African and international civil society we have a vested interest in ensuring a strong and independent African human rights architecture to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights on the continent. The ability for individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to file cases directly before the African Court – the principal human rights tribunal on the continent – significantly reduces barriers of entry for survivors and victims of human rights violations seeking redress and significantly increases the capacity of the Court to carry out its crucial mandate.

Previously Rwanda had been commended for being one of the first states to accept the jurisdiction of the African Court to hear cases brought directly by individuals and NGOs. However, particularly at a time when African states are demanding “African solutions to African problems” this unprecedented decision to withdraw an article 34(6) declaration and the Rwandan government’s failure to subsequently participate in proceedings before the Court substantially undermines region-wide efforts to strengthen African human rights institutions and sends an alarming message about the Rwandan government’s commitment to justice and human rights in general.

We call upon the African Union and all African states committed to the continued development of the African Human Rights System to join us in urging the Rwandan government to retract its withdrawal of its article 34(6) declaration; and we call upon all African states to strengthen the African Court’s role for the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights throughout the continent by ratifying the existing Protocol and depositing declarations allowing individual and NGOs direct access to the Court.


African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (ACJPS), Sudan

African Court Coalition

Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy (AJPD), Angola

Association Malienne des Droits de l’Homme (AMDH), Mali

Association rwandaise pour la Défense des droits de la personne et des libertés publiques (ADL), Rwanda

Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense des droits de l’Homme (ATPDH), Chad

Centre for the Study of Violence and Conciliation (CSVR), South Africa

Chapter Four, Uganda

DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)

Ditshwanelo – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Botswana

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Egypt

Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI), Uganda

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA)

Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), Kenya

Lawyers for Justice in Libya, Libya

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), South Africa

Ligue Algérienne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH), Algeria

Ligue Bissau Guineenne des Droits Humains, Guinée Bissau

Ligue Centrafricaine des Droits de l’Homme (LCDH), Central African Republic

Ligue des Droits de la Personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL), Rwanda

Ligue des Electeurs, Democratic Republic of Congo

Ligue Ivoirienne Des Droits De l’Homme (LIDHO), Cote d’Ivoire

Ligue Sénégalaise Des Droits Humains (LSDH), Senegal

Ligue Tchadienne des Droits de l’Homme (LTDH), Chad

Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI)

Minority Rights Group International (MRG)

Mouvement Burkinabè des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples (MBDHP), Burkina Faso

Observatoire congolais des droits de l’Homme (OCDH), Congo


Regional Watch for Human Rights, Liberia

Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), Senegal

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), Nigeria

Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC)

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Zimbabwe




Media Contact:

Wade McMullen

Managing Attorney

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights

Office: +1-202-463-7575, ext. 221; Cell: +1-202-670-1845

[email protected]