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The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Its Protection of the Right to a Fair Trial

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Article 3(1) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights provides that: “[t]he jurisdiction of the Court shall extend to all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the [African] Charter, this Protocol and any other relevant Human Rights instrument ratified by the States concerned.” Since its establishment, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has handed down judgments dealing, inter alia, with the right to a fair trial under Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. This article discusses these judgments to highlight how the Court has interpreted or applied Article 7 of the African Charter. The author will analyse the jurisprudence of the Court on the right to a fair trial and in particular discuss the following themes that have emerged from this jurisprudence: the Court’s interpretation of the components of the right to a fair trial; the right to be heard and the right to defend oneself; the right to legal assistance, including legal aid; manifest errors in the trial; the right to be tried within a reasonable time; and the role of a prosecutor in contributing to the fairness of the trial. The author also discusses how the African Court has invoked other treaties to interpret the relevant provisions of the African Charter and how the African Court has interpreted other treaties apart from the African Charter.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape BellvilleSouth Africa


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