About the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, ACHPR

The African Commission on Human & Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) was officially inaugurated on the 2nd November 1987 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and a few years later a permanent Secretariat was secured for the Commission in Banjul, The Gambia. The establishment of the ACHPR was provided for by the African Charter on Human & Peoples' Rights. This charter came into force on 21st October 1986 after its adoption in Nairobi, Kenya by the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the organisation of African Unity (OAU). The OAU was disbanded in July 2002 and has since been replaced by the African Union (AU).


The ACHPR is composed of eleven commissioners elected by secret ballot by the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union (AU) for a 6-year renewable term.

Mandate & Activities

The mandate of the Commission is to promote and protect human and peoples' rights in Africa and to interpret the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

The Commission focuses on promotional activities, which includes awareness-raising, fact-finding missions as well as documenting and collecting information relating to human and peoples' rights in Africa. Complaints about human rights abuses are continuously being lodged to the Commission, but the processing of these complaints can take a long time, and there is not yet any mechanism to enforce decisions taken by the Commission. However, in April 2005, at the 37th session of the ACHPR a resolution was adopted on the establishment of an African court on human and peoples' rights.

Promotional activities carried out by the Commission

The Commission has in collaboration with NGOs established a Documentation Centre to be used for human rights studies and research.

It has organised seminars and conferences aimed at promoting human and peoples' rights in Africa.

It has produced a number of human rights documents relating to the African Commission and circulates them for free.

Members of the Commission carry out promotional missions to specific countries.

Members of the Commission have been appointed as Special Rapporteurs as well as Chairperson of Working Group on different human rights issues. These rapporteurs gather documentation on their respective areas, which can be used by the Commission to approach African states, which violate human rights in those fields;

The Commission has initiated co-operation with other regional and international institutions.

The Commission has been granting observer status to NGOs in order to strengthen its co-operation with them. The Commission also grants a special status, namely 'affiliate status' to National Human Rights Institutions.

Protection related activities carried out by the Commission

The African Charter provides for a "Communication Procedure" which is a complaint system through which an individual, NGO or group of individuals can complain to the Commission about human rights violations. A State party can also make a communication to the Commission if another State party is violating any of the provisions in the Charter. The Commission only considers the cases if all local remedies have been exhausted, unless it is obvious to the Commission that this procedure is unduly prolonged. If accepted, the communications are processed by the Commission, which can then make recommendations to the State and to the AU Assembly.

The Commission has sent missions to several states to investigate allegations of massive and serious human rights abuses. The missions make recommendations to the states concerned as to how to improve the human rights situation.

The Commission has sent urgent appeal to head of States when human rights have allegedly been violated. The appels are urging the Governments to take appropriate measures to address alleged human rights violations, and to find agreeable and lasting solutions to the questions within their respective territories.

Member states are obliged to send the Commission Periodic Reports every two years on the measures they have taken to give effect to the freedoms and rights recognised by the African Charter. The members of the Commission examine these reports, and recommendations are given during the open sessions and state representatives are present to answer queries. These reports can be circulated to all interested groups or individuals, and NGOs or individuals can prepare counter reports or forward questions to the Commission, which can be asked to the state representatives.

Special Mechanisms

There are 13 special mechanisms within the ACHPR. The Commission determines the mandate and terms of reference of each mechanism. Each mechanism shall present a report on its work to the Commission at each ordinary session of the Commission. The mechanisms are:

  • Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa
  • Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention in Africa
  • Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Displaced Persons in Africa
  • Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa
  • Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa
  • Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa
  • Working Group on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Africa
  • Working Group on Specific Issues Relevant to the Work of the Commission
  • Working Group on the Death Penalty
  • Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa
  • Working Group on Older Persons and People with Disabilities in Africa
  • Committee on the Protection of the Rights of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) and those at Risks, Vulnerable to and Affected by HIV
  • Working Group on Extractive Industries, Environment and Human Rights in Africa
  • Advisory Committee on Budgetary and Staff Matters
  • Working Group on Communications

More Information

Link to the African Commission on Human & Peoples' Rights