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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 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 Organisation of African Unity(OAU). 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 Ababamarker, Ethiopiamarker, but in November 1989 it relocated to Banjulmarker, Gambiamarker. (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.

In November 2007, the members were:

Name Country of Origin Position Elected Term
Salimata Sawadogo Burkina Fasomarker Chairperson 2005 2011
Yaser Sid Ahmad El-Hassan Sudanmarker Vice Chairperson 2005 2011
Kamel Rezag-Bara Algeriamarker Member 2005 2011
Mohamed Abdellahi Ould Babana Mozambiquemarker Member 2005 2011
Sanji Mmasenono Monageng Botswanamarker Member 2005 2011
Musa Ngary Bitaye The Gambiamarker Member 2005 2011
Angela Melo Mozambiquemarker Member 2005 2011
Bahame Tom Mukirya Nyandunga Tanzania Member 2005 2011
Mumba Malila Zambiamarker Member 2005 2011
Reine Alapini-Gansou Beninmarker Member 2005 2011
Faith Pansy Tlakula South Africa Member 2005 2011


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

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.

Special Mechanisms

The Commission has six Special Mechanisms, or Special Rapporteurs, that address specific human rights issues:

These rapporteurs are highly regarded experts in their field who monitor, investigate and report on allegations of violations in member states of the African Union.

Working Groups

There are five Working Groups 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 Robben Island Guidelines
  • Working Group on the Death Penalty


  • Ankumah, Evelyn A., African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Kluwer, 1996
  • 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 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

See also

External links

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