The Transnational Human Rights Review


African Union; African human rights system; African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; optional declaration

Document Type


English Abstract

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights took its place as the youngest of the three regional human rights courts with its establishment in 2006. However, the Court’s jurisdiction remains a work in progress. Thirty of the African Union’s fifty-five member states have ratified the protocol allowing the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to refer cases to the Court but only ten have made the optional declaration allowing individuals direct access. Previous research has indicated that transitional states desirous of “locking in” new commitments to democracy and human rights have been particularly likely to ratify the protocol but there has been little analysis of optional declarations, which have been the primary means by which cases have reached the Court. This article fills this gap by analyzing the circumstances underlying optional declarations. It finds that most have been associated with consolidations of prior democratic transitions.