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Friday, 13 May 2022 – Saturday, 14 May 2022, The Hague, Netherlands

The Centre for International Law and Policy in Africa (CILPA) convened a one-and-a-half-day, by invitation only, Independent Expert Meeting on the Draft Rules Of Procedure and the Elements of Crimes for the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples Rights under the Malabo Protocol in The Hague, the Netherlands, from the 13th to 14th of May 2022. 

The African Court Research Initiative (ACRI) a project facilitated by the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa focused on the African Union’s June 2014 protocol conferring criminal, human rights and general jurisdiction on the African Court of Justice and Human and People’s Rights and the normative framework in which it sits under international law. The project, which began in 2013, was completed over several years. The ACRI spearheaded a project to study and promote a more nuanced understanding of the Protocol on Amendments to the Protocol of the Statute of the African Court of Justice on Human Rights (the “Malabo Protocol”) which was adopted in June 2014 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union (African Union).  The Malabo Protocol, when it enters into force, will create a new regional court in Africa with jurisdiction over general inter-state disputes, human rights, and criminal matters. Concerned that the discourse and scholarship on the Protocol were limited to questions about its compatibility with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the last-minute inclusion of a temporary immunity clause limiting the prosecution of sitting African government officials for core international crimes, the ACRI engaged diverse regional and international experts to draft key legal instruments and a comprehensive commentary with historical and contemporary perspectives on the evolution of the African Court.

Specifically, the ACRI has successfully undertaken the following actions: 

  1. The compilation of an African Court volume, published by Cambridge University Press in May 2019, which provides the most comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the articles of the Malabo Protocol to date by a group of leading scholars and practitioners from Africa and around the world.
  2. The preparation of draft Rules of Procedure and Evidence and draft Elements of Crimes. These documents were drafted as working documents, with the goal of providing a working basis for the judges of the future court with a possible framework for application of the Court’s governing instruments.  The documents were subject to expert discussion at Geneva in early May 2019. 

In July 2021, ACRI commissioned Ms. Lorraine Smith-van Lin, an independent international law expert, to carry out a comprehensive review and finalization of the full draft Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Elements of Crime, under the general supervision and guidance of Professor Charles Jalloh, Principal Investigator (PI) of the ACRI. The consultant was requested to provide high-level legal research and consultancy services to assist the PI to conclude the ACRI-Phase III research, including the review of expert comments from previous roundtables, harmonisation and consolidation of the full draft of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence and the Elements of Crimes. The consultant’s review was carried out between July and December 2021.

The Centre for International Law and Policy in Africa (CILPA), whose founder initiated the ACRI Project, wished to continue with the finalization of credible secondary instruments for the Malabo Protocol. The purpose of the Independent Expert Meeting was to discuss the expert review and to finalise Phase-III of the research and drafting process. The meeting brought together the legal experts who prepared the first drafts of the documents, the consultant reviewer, and select expert practitioners with relevant experience on the African Court and issues of international dispute settlement. The meeting provided an opportunity for all expert participants to reassess, and as necessary, to help provide ideas for revision and finalization of the draft instruments. 

The consultant and PI presented general findings of the review and analysis of the draft documents and facilitated feedback and commentary by the legal drafters and expert participants. The closed meeting was a working session with detailed examination of specific themes and provisions identified by the consultant, close consideration of the harmonisation of each of the draft rules and real-time edits to the documents.