Can Africa afford an African Court with three Jurisdictions?  Does it have the funding that it will need in order to be functional? How will it be financed?


Questions about how the expanded African Court will be funded are among the most pressing issues still to be resolved.  The Statute of the Court states only that the budget shall be borne by the African Union, based on a draft annual budget submitted to the AU Assembly for approval, but does not specify how the Court will be funded.  As a result, many have expressed concern whether the AU will have adequate resources to dedicate to the expanded African Court, particularly in light of the AU’s prior difficulties funding human rights institutions.

To ensure that sufficient resources are made available to the expanded African Court, it is vital that the AU undertake a comprehensive study on the financial needs of the Court.  Any such assessment should include costs related to the Presidency and judicial functions, the Registry, the Office of the Prosecutor, the Defense Office, facilities and the Trust Fund. More specifically, the expanded African Court will require significantly more personnel to staff its larger structure, which includes the two additional judicial sections, new prosecution and defense offices, and new units for detention services and victims’ services.  In addition, the expanded African Court will require adequate financial resources to conduct criminal investigations and trials, which are notoriously costly. For instance, a review of the staffing and costs of similar supra-national criminal tribunals indicates that– once the International Criminal Law Section is fully functional – that section alone could require a budget of between $30 and $50 million annually.

It is obvious that it will not be possible to operate the expanded African Court with the budget of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which currently stands at $10.3 million. Thus, it is necessary that the AU undertake a comprehensive study of the human and financial needs of the expanded African Court in order to get a more precise estimate so that it can plan appropriately to meet these needs.

There are several funding mechanisms that the AU can use to fund the expanded African Court including member assessments, the AU’s new import levy, voluntary contributions, a permanent court fund, and international donors.  Based on the challenges the AU previously has experienced with member assessments, it would be wise that the new AU import levy be used to provide much of the funding for the expanded African Court.  As needed, other mechanisms can then be used for special projects, the trust fund, and other one-time expenses.