Contra Nocendi on Wednesday November 1, marked the 10th anniversary of the judgement handed down by the East African Court of Justice in the case of James Katabazi & 21 others v Secretary General of the EAC and one other. This judgement was a key turning point in providing greater access to justice in the East African Community for human rights abuses.
The Court in Katabazi recognized its jurisdiction to matters indirectly related to human rights. While Article 27(1) restrains the Court from dealing with matters of human rights until the jurisdiction is vested in the Court via Article 27(2), however the Court held that:
“While the Court will not assume jurisdiction to adjudicate on human rights disputes, it will not abdicate from exercising its jurisdiction of interpretation under Article 27(1) merely because the reference includes allegation of human rights violation”. This opened the door for greater access to justice for human rights abuses in the East African Community.
While we mark this important decision and the wisdom of the Court in handing down this precedent, we must reflect upon the fact that 10 years later, the East African Community has yet to vest jurisdiction over human rights issues directly with the Court. The Partner States must take action and show that their commitments in the EAC Treaty to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and to the rule of law were not empty words. We at Contra Nocendi, urge the Partner States of the East African Community to put the necessary protocol into force to vest jurisdiction with the Court.