Category Archives: African System

Four Members Join African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

28th Extraordinary Session of the ACHPR
Credit: ACHPR

On June 29, during its virtual 28th Extraordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) swore in four new Commissioners who will begin six-year terms. They are: Marie Louise Abomo (Cameroon), Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga (Zambia), Ndiamé Gaye (Senegal), and Alexia Gertrude Amesbury (Seychelles). [ACHPR Press Release; ISHR] The Commissioners were appointed during the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (the Assembly) of the African Union (AU), which took place from February 9 to 10, 2020, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The gender balance of the ACHPR will remain the same, with six members who identify as female and five who identify as male. The new Commissioners join the continent’s human rights body at a time when some AU Member States are pushing back against human rights norms and regional oversight.

The new Commissioners will replace Soyata Maiga (Mali), Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen (Mauritius), Lucy Asuagbor (Cameroon), and Lawrence Murugu Mute (Kenya). Commissioner Asuagbor was first elected to a three-year term in 2009. Commissioners Maiga and Yeung were first elected to six-year terms in 2007. The Executive Council re-elected the three commissioners, and elected Commissioner Mute, to six-year terms in 2013. Commissioner Mute was among the 10 candidates presented to the AU Executive Council in December 2019, but was not reelected. The next expected elections will take place in 2021, when three Commissioners’ terms will expire.

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Benin and Côte d’Ivoire to Withdraw Individual Access to African Court

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Credit: AfCHPR via Twitter

Access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) is likely to further shrink next year, following announcements by Côte d’Ivoire and Benin that they will withdraw their acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction over human rights complaints by individuals and non-governmental organizations. [RFI; Government of Benin Press Release] News of the announcements came days after the AfCHPR issued provisional measures ordering both States to take specific steps to avoid the exclusion of opposition candidates from upcoming elections, although Benin authorities indicated Benin had communicated its withdrawal on March 16, 2020. [RFI (French only); RTI Info (French only); Barron’s] No official notification from either State to the African Union is yet available online.

Benin and Côte d’Ivoire would become the third and fourth States to withdraw a declaration under Article 34 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol), potentially leaving only six States that allow individuals and NGOs to directly submit complaints to the AfCHPR. See IJRC, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Previously, Tanzania withdrew its declaration in November 2019 and Rwanda in February 2016. See IJRC, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The AfCHPR ruled in the case of Rwanda that a properly communicated withdrawal would take effect one year after notification. See AfCHPR, Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza v. Rwanda, App. No. 003/2014, Ruling on Jurisdiction of 3 June 2016, paras. 67-68.

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New ACHPR Declaration on Freedom of Expression & Access to Information

ACHPR Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information Lawrence Murugu Mute
Credit: Lawrence Mute via Twitter

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has published a new Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Declaration), which replaces its 2002 principles on freedom of expression, and expands the guidance to States on access to information and digital rights. [ACHPR Press Release] The Declaration – a soft law document that interprets Article 9 (right to receive information and free expression) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – consists of 43 principles, including principles on access to the internet, internet intermediaries, privacy protections, and communication surveillance, as well as on the Declaration’s implementation. See ACHPR, Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (2019). The ACHPR Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information led the Declaration’s drafting, and the ACHPR adopted the final Declaration during its 65th Ordinary Session in November 2019. [ACHPR Press Release]

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ACHPR Publishes Special Mechanism Rules Ahead of New Rules of Procedure

ACHPR 27th Extraordinary Session, The Gambia
Credit: ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has published new rules that partially clarify and formalize the work of the individuals and groups appointed to monitor and protect specific human rights and vulnerable groups on the Commission’s behalf. See ACommHPR, Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2020). The new Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms mandate specific procedures and conduct, and envision greater consistency and transparency with regard to the special mechanisms’ work, although some details remain unclear. The text refers to the forthcoming revised ACHPR Rules of Procedure, which the ACHPR adopted along with the new Standard Operation Procedures during its 27th Extraordinary Session, held from February 14 to March 4, 2020. See ACHPR, Final Communiqué of the 27th Extraordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. While the ACHPR’s 12 thematic special mechanisms share similarities with the rapporteurships of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), they are unique in that the working groups and committees include outside “expert members” who are not themselves ACHPR commissioners and who volunteer on a part-time basis. See ACommHPR, Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2020). The IACHR similarly released new guidelines on the work of its rapporteurships in February 2020. [IACHR Press Release]

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March 2020: UN Treaty Bodies, Human Rights Council, and Regional Bodies in Session

European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: Council of Europe

In March, universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports and country visits. Five United Nations treaty bodies and two pre-sessional working groups will be in session to assess States’ progress regarding economic, social and cultural rights; children’s rights; civil and political rights; the rights of persons with disabilities; and, migrants’ rights. The Human Rights Council will continue to hold its first of three regular sessions in 2020. Seven UN special procedures will conduct country visits in March. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. Regionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold public sessions. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will also hold a Grand Chamber hearing.

The UN treaty body sessions, the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber hearing, and the public hearings of the IACtHR and the IACHR may be watched via UN Web TV, the ECtHR’s website, and the IACtHR’s Vimeo page and the IACHR’s YouTube page, respectively. Civil society members wishing to attend sessions should monitor updates related to the spread of the COVID-19 (Corona) virus, which may result in cancelled sessions or meetings and/or additional health checks.

To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

As African Court Releases New Judgments, Tanzania Withdraws Individual Access

African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights session banner

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights session banner
Credit: African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights via Flickr

Tanzania has announced it will no longer allow individuals and non-governmental organizations to submit complaints against it to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), amid growing concern for human rights conditions in the country. [Amnesty International] When it withdrew its declaration under Article 34 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol) last month, Tanzania became the second State to do so, potentially leaving only eight States that accept the African Court’s individual complaints mechanism. See IJRC, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The withdrawal follows years of Court judgments on Tanzania, principally on due process in criminal proceedings, and coincides with a new judgment holding that Tanzania’s mandatory imposition of the death penalty for murder convictions violates the human rights to fair trial and to life. [AfCHPR Press Release: Judgments; AfCHPR Press Release: Rajabu] The African Court is based in Arusha, Tanzania.

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December 2019: UN Treaty Bodies & Regional Bodies in Session

European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: ECSR

In December, universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports and country visits. Two United Nations treaty bodies will be in session to assess States’ progress regarding the prevention of torture and the elimination of racial discrimination. Seven UN special procedures will conduct country visits in December. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. Of the regional bodies, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be in session.

The UN treaty body sessions, the AfCHPR public hearings, and the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber hearings, may be watched via UN Web TV, the African Court’s YouTube channel, and the ECtHR’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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Recent Developments Highlight Increased Collaboration Among Human Rights Bodies

Signing of the MOU between the UN and the World Economic Forum
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Over the past several months, supranational human rights bodies have announced a flurry of joint events and agreements, highlighting some specific rights challenges and the increasing importance of technical collaboration. Between September and November 2019, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were among the bodies that entered into cooperation agreements or hosted events to formalize and enhance collaboration in the implementation of human rights instruments. While there are many other examples over the past decade, it is noteworthy that these collaborations appear to be happening with increasing frequency, formality, and transparency.

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November 2019: UN Treaty Bodies, UPR Working Group & Regional Bodies In Session

UPR Reports Reviewed
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc FerrŽ

In November, universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports and country visits. Five United Nations treaty bodies and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding women’s rights, civil and political rights, the prevention of torture, and the elimination of racial discrimination. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Ten UN special procedures will conduct country visits in November. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will be in session.

The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the IACtHR and the IACHR may be viewed via the IACtHR’s Vimeo page and the IACHR’s YouTube page, respectively.

To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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