Access to international justice in Africa: the conundrum of states’ non-compliance with judicial decisions

Authors Swikani Ncube

ISSN: 2522-3062
Affiliations: Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, South African Research Chair in International Law, University of Johannesburg
Source: Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, The, Volume 50 Issue 3, p. 395 – 416


Following the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights decision in the Atebong Denis Atemnkeng case in 2013, critics predictably focused on Article 34(6) of the Protocol Establishing the Court as far as its application is a hindrance to individuals’ access to justice on the continent. Forgotten in this discussion were the far-reaching consequences of states’ noncompliance with judicial decisions, even where individuals have direct access to international judicial organs. This article argues that, in Africa, greater threats to access to justice are posed by states’ conduct post adjudication. Using the experiences of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the suspended SADC Tribunal as empirical evidence, this article argues that post adjudication, states can seriously reverse the gains made by the international justice agenda. Finally, this article cautions against judicial activism as a means of seeking the extension of locus standi to individuals before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and urges contentment with the snail’s pace at which the continent’s judicial organs are evolving.