News April 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

Gaddafi is Summoned by the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

Sandra Appiah | Contributor, F2FA

Sandra Appiah April 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

April 19, 2011 at 12:00 am | News

By Wilson Idahosa Aiwuyor

photo courtesy: wn.com

The embattled leader of Libya, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, and his regime have been summoned to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) to answer for crimes committed against peaceful protesters in the early days of the Libyan uprising.

According to the Tanzanian newspaper, Arusha Times, the summon came after another African continental body, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, initiated a legal action against the Gaddafi regime.

The court also wants the Gaddafi regime to explain what measures it has so far taken to end the killing of innocent civilians and the violation of human rights.

There has been an uprising in Libya since mid February when protesters, inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the street to demand their political rights from Gaddafi’s 42 years old regime. The regime has been characterized by repression and massive human rights violations. Gaddafi’s security forces unleashed brutal force against anti-regime protesters. They used targeted aerial bombardment, sniper fire, kidnappings, and mercenary fighters to deal with them.

The aftermath has been a full blown war between forces loyal to Gaddafi in the capital Triploli and opposition pro-democracy fighters in the Eastern part of the country Benghazi, aided by former regime military personnel who defected to the side of the protesters.

The UN Security Council authorized the establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya to stop Gaddafi’s aerial bombardment of civilians. Gaddafi’s forces have continued to bomb civilians in part of the country, despite effort by mainly Western forces (implementing the no-fly zone) to protect civilians by bombing Gaddafi’s military artilleries.

The African Union, which has been criticized for not doing enough in the early days of the conflict to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s wrath, has been making efforts to mediate between Gaddafi and the pro-democracy National Transition Council in Benghazi to end the war.

The African Court on Human and People’s Rights came into being in January 2005. Based in Arusha, Tanzania, it is Africa’s equivalent of the European Court on Human Rights.

Also known as the African Court of Justice and Human Rights, the AfCHPR was set up in 2005 to enforce the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. It is supposed to be the continent’s highest court for the protection of human rights. But continental institutions such as the AfCHPR have over the years faced impediments, including the issue of state sovereignty and the lack of political will from African leaders to strengthen them.

There is no certainty that Gaddafi and his regime members would honor the summon by the AfCHPR. But the action of the court reveals the fact that there exist regional institutions designated to protecting African peoples and ensuring that the continent’s leaders uphold the human and people’s rights of their citizens. But it is widely believed that the present crop of leaders have been a major obstacle to the proper functioning of these institutions. The question is whether these leaders and the AfCHPR can point to a new direction, using the Gaddafi situation as a guinea pig.

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