African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

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The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) is a quasi-judicial body tasked with promoting and protecting human rights and collective (peoples') rights throughout the African continent as well as interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and considering individual complaints of violations of the Charter.

The Commission came into existence with the coming into force, on 21 October 1986, of the African Charter (adopted by the OAU on 27 June 1981). Although its authority rests on its own treaty, the African Charter, the Commission reports to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity). Its first members were elected by the OAU's 23rd Assembly of Heads of State and Government in June 1987 and the Commission was formally installed for the first time on 2 November of that year. For the first two years of its existence, the Commission was based at the OAU Secretariat in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but in November 1989 it relocated to Banjul, Gambia. (NB: The ACHPR should be distinguished from the African Union Commission, as the OAU Secretariat has been renamed since the creation of the African Union.)

The Commission meets twice a year: usually in March or April and in October or November. One of these meetings is usually in Banjul, where the Commission's secretariat is located; the other may be in any African state.


The ACHPR is made up of eleven members, elected by secret ballot at the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government (subsequently, by the AU's Assembly). These members, who serve six-year renewable terms, are "chosen from amongst African personalities of the highest reputation, known for their high morality, integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of human and peoples' rights" (Charter, Article 31) and, in selecting these personalities, particular consideration is given "to persons having legal experience".

The members are to enjoy full independence in discharging their duties and serve on a personal basis (i.e., not representing their home states); however, no member state may have more than one of its nationals on the Commission at any given time. The members choose, from among their own number, a chairperson and a Vice Chairperson, who each serve two-year renewable terms.

Name Country of Origin Position Elected Term Re-elected
Faith Pansy Tlakula South Africa South Africa Chair 2005 2011 2012
Solomon Ayele Dersso Ethiopia Ethiopia Member
Jamesina Essie L. King Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Member
Lawrence Murugu Mute Kenya Kenya Member 2013 2019
Zainabo Sylvie Kayitesi Rwanda Rwanda Member 2007 2009 2010
Reine Alapini-Gansou Benin Benin Member 2005 2011 2012
Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen Mauritius Mauritius Member 2007 2013
Lucy Asuagbor Cameroon Cameroon Member 2010 2016
Maya Sahli Fadel Algeria Algeria Member 2011 2017
Med S.K. Kaggwa UgandaUganda Member 2011 2017
Soyata Maiga MaliMali Member 2007 2013 2014


The Commission has three broad areas of responsibility:

  • Promoting human and peoples' rights
  • Protecting human and peoples' rights
  • Interpreting the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights[1]

In pursuit of these goals, the Commission is mandated to "collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples, rights, organise seminars, symposia and conferences, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples' rights and, should the case arise, give its views or make recommendations to governments" (Charter, Art. 45).

With the creation of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (under a protocol to the Charter which was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in January 2004), the Commission will have the additional task of preparing cases for submission to the Court's jurisdiction. In a July 2004 decision, the AU Assembly resolved that the future Court on Human and Peoples' Rights would be integrated with the African Court of Justice. In 2011, the commission brought before the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights a case against Libya.

Special mechanisms

The Commission has several Special Mechanisms in the form of Special Rapporteurs, working groups or committees that investigate and report on specific human rights issues.

There are 6 special rapporteurs who monitor, investigate and report on allegations of violations in member states of the African Union.

  • Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution
  • Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information
  • Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders
  • Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention
  • Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons
  • Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women

There are eight Working Groups, two Committees and one study group that monitor and investigate various issues under the purview of the Commission:

  • Working Group on Specific Issues Related to the work of the African Commission
  • Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa
  • Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Working Group on the Rights of Older Persons and People with Disabilities
  • Working Group on the Death Penalty
  • Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights Violations
  • Working Group on Fair Trial
  • Working Group on Communications
  • Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa
  • Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living With HIV (PLHIV) and those at Risk, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV
  • Study Group on Freedom of Association


The ACHPR relies on a network of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that are required to submit reports to the commission every two years. The commission has granted 514 NGOs with observer status.[2]

See also


  • Ankumah, Evelyn A., African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Kluwer, 1996
  • Bösl, A & Diescho, J., Human Rights in Africa. Legal perspectives on their protection and promotion, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu, Macmillan 2009.
  • Murray, RH. Human Rights in Africa: From the OAU to the African Union, Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  • Evans, MD & Murray, RH (Eds.), The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: The System at Work, Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Evans, MD & Murray, RH (Eds.), The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Second Edition): The System in Practice 1986–2006, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Murray, RH & Evans, MD (Eds.), Documents of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Hart Publishing, 2001.
  • Numerous academic articles on the jurisprudence of the African Commission published in the African Human Rights Law Journal
  • Reports and information about the ACHPR from the International Service for Human Rights
  • Reports of ACHPR cases published in the African Human Rights Law Reports
  • Regular updates of news on the ACHPR published by the Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights

External links

  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • Text of African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • Decisions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • African Union
  • Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa


  1. ^ "About ACHPR". ACHPR. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
  2. ^ "Network". ACHPR. Retrieved 2018-05-18.
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