On December 2, 2021, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Court), in the case of Hossou v. Benin, ruled on whether the withdrawal by Benin of its Declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the Court to receive applications from individuals and NGOs was a violation of the applicants’ rights, and whether such actions violated the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights instruments. According to a Court press release, the Court upheld the objection of Benin on the Court’s material jurisdiction.
Benin argued that a state is a sovereign entity, and since the Declaration is optional, the Court will have jurisdiction only when Benin consents so. Accordingly, since Benin withdrew its Declaration, the application fell outside the Court’s jurisdiction.
The Court sought guidance from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (Vienna Convention), rules governing declarations of acceptance of jurisdiction, and the rules governing the jurisdiction of international courts to decide whether the withdrawal of the Declaration constitutes a human rights violation. The Court stated that Vienna Convention does not apply to the Declaration; depositing a Declaration is a voluntary act; and states are free to withdraw their obligation. The Court accordingly decided that Benin acted within its rights and that the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.