African Commission on Human and People’s Rights ACHPR

Commission Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples CADHP

Established by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which came into force on 21 October 1986 after its adoption in Nairobi (Kenya) in 1981 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity OAU, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is charged with ensuring the promotion and protection of Human and Peoples’ Rights throughout the African Continent. The Commission has its headquarters in Banjul, The Gambia … (History 1/2).

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AFRICAN CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS and special African Rights for Children, Women, Refugees; African Court; CONSTITUTIVE ACT OF THE AFRICAN UNION; Mandat; Sessions; News; Ratifications; Activity reports; Members; Vacancy;
Address: ACHPR – CADHP, No 31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District, Western Region, P.O.Box 673, Banjul, The Gambia;

History 2/2: :  For almost two decades after the creation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in May 1963, the focus of the Organisation remained almost entirely the decolonisation of the continent and the eradication of apartheid.

In spite of tbe Organisation’s endorsement of the principles of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 in the preamble of the OAU Charter, the promotion and protection of human rights within OAU members states was not a major priority. As such, it concentrated its efforts on political and economic independence, non-discrimination and the liberation of Africa through the eradication of colonialism on the continent and apartheid in Southern Africa, at the expense of individual liberty.

In the early days of its existence, different groups which included the Media, the Church, inter-governmental and non-government organisations (NGOs) mounted pressure on the OAU by exposing some of the most gruesome human rights abuses on the continent.

They accused the Organisation of abandoning its primary goal of restoring dignity to the humiliated African peoples. It was accused of double standards for condemning apartheid in South Africa while failing to condemn the massive human rights violations committed by some of its own members.

At the same time, the said pressure groups were encouraging the establishment of a human rights protection mechanism on the continent. Thus, starting from the 1961 Lagos Conference organised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) to the 1979 UN sponsored Monrovia Seminar on the Establishment of Regional Commissions on Human Rights with Special Reference to Africa, pressure and assistance were simultaneous to ensure that the OAU and its leaders uphold the spirit that motivated the struggle for political independence – to restore to the African peoples their dignity lost during slave trade and colonial eras – a cause for which they won international sympathy and support.

In July 1979, the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government met in Monrovia, Liberia and decided to place its members under an international obligations through a positivist approach.

Accordingly at this summit, a resolution was adopted calling on the OAU Secretary General to form a committee of experts which would draft an African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, providing among other things, for mechanisms to promote and protect the rights embodied in the Charter.

The group of experts began work on a draft Charter in 1979 and produced a draft which was unanimously adopted at the 18th Assembly meeting of the OAU Heads of States and Government in Nairobi Kenya. The Charter provides for a Human Rights Commission to ensure implementation of the rights enshrined therein.

This acceptance of a limitation on sovereign national authority (at least on human rights related matters), albeit minimal, was hailed as a significant step by African States. The move was generally viewed as ushering in a new era of recognition of individuals rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On 21 October 1986, the Charter came into force. This date has been declared, and is being celebrated as an African Human Rights Day.

The Commission was officially inaugurated on 2nd November 1987 in Addis Ababa, Ethopia, after its members had been elected in July of the same year by the OAU 23rd Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

The Commission did not have a permanent Secretariat after its inauguration and thus, for its first five sessions, its activities were co-ordinated from the OAU General Secretariat in Addis Ababa. It was only in November 1989 Commission. The Secretariat which is also the Headquarters of the Commission, is located in Banjul, The Gambia, and was officially inaugurated by His Excellency, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, former Head of State of The Gambia, on Monday 12 June 1989.

The Commission elects its Chairman and Vice-Chairman. It meets twice a year – usually in March or April and in October or November. The sessions usually last for fifteen (15) days, but are likely to increase as the workload of the Commission increases.

[Download (online) the complete ACHPR Information Sheet No. 1: Establishment].

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