Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa
MANDATE OF THE COMMITTEE FOR THE PREVENTION OF TORTURE IN AFRICA
The Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa is one of the special mechanisms overseen by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Committee was created in 2002 during the Commission’s 32nd Ordinary Session. See ACommHPR, Resolution 61, Resolution on Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa, October 2002. Its purpose is to promote the implementation of the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (Robben Island Guidelines) throughout the African Union (AU) Member States. Although the name of the Committee changed in 2009 from the “Robben Island Guidelines Follow-up Committee” to the “Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa,” the mandate has remained the same. See ACommHPR, Resolution 158, Resolution on the Change of Name of the “Robben Island Guidelines Follow-Up Committee” to the “Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa” and the Reappointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Committee, 25 November 2009.
COMPOSITION AND WORKING METHODS
The Commission appoints the Committee’s Chairperson and Members either by a consensus or by a vote. See ACommHPR, Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 2010, Rule 23(2). The mandate of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa has been renewed by the Commission several times, typically every two years. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Resolution 120, Resolution on the Renewal of Mandate and Appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Follow-up Committee on the Implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines, 28 November 2007.
When the Committee was originally established, it was composed of the African Commission, Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), and individuals that the Commission deemed to be prominent African experts. See ACommHPR, Resolution 61, Resolution on Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa. As of October 2014, each individual appointed as Chairperson has been a Commissioner, simultaneously serving on the African Commission. While some Members have been Commissioners, others have been representatives of the APT or prominent African experts. See, e.g., APT, Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa.
The Committee’s top priority is to facilitate effective implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines throughout the Member States. To this end, the Committee undertakes a number of duties, including writing letters regarding alleged violations, developing strategies to promote the Robben Island Guidelines, analyzing States’ domestic laws and their compliance with international standards, and conducting visits to Member States.
Writing Letters Regarding Alleged Violations
Upon learning of an alleged violation of the prohibition against torture, the Committee may issue letters of urgent appeal to State officials. These letters request State officials to take measures toward protecting those who have allegedly been tortured, investigate the allegations, hold the perpetrators accountable, and provide redress for victims. See, e.g., Catherine Dupe Atoki, Periodic Progress Report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa, Intersession Activity Report, 53rd Ordinary Session (2013).
Analysis of National Practices and Policies
The Committee evaluates Member States’ laws and makes recommendations, encouraging the States to better align their policies with their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international standards, including the Robben Island Guidelines. For example, the Committee engages with State officials to discuss shortcomings in their legal framework that make individuals vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment. See, e.g., ACommHPR, Report of the Promotion Mission of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mission Report, 12th Extraordinary Session (2012).
The Committee undertakes country visits to Member States, with their consent. During these visits, which are also known as missions, the Committee engages with government officials to discuss strategies for overcoming obstacles to the effective implementation the Robben Island Guidelines. The Committee also visits multiple detention centers and investigates allegations of torture, ultimately providing the State with recommendations on how to it may increase respect for human rights and implement the Guidelines. See id.
According to Rule 60 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, after the completion of a mission, the Committee has a duty to publish a Mission Report, which may be found on its website. These reports contain general recommendations to the State, and often include specific recommendations the African Union, the international community, and civil society, among others.
The Committee is responsible for seeking and receiving information from individuals, governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions, and other stakeholders concerning cases or situations that involve torture and ill-treatment.
Along with information gathered from such actors and during missions, the Committee disseminates and obtains information through promotional activities, such as publishing a practical guide on implementing the Robben Island Guidelines, and holding seminars to train law enforcement officials on the prohibition and prevention of torture. The Committee often coordinates these activities with other relevant Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups under the Commission or the United Nations. See, e.g., Catherine Dupe Atoki, Periodic Progress Report of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa, Intersession Activity Report, 53rd Ordinary Session (2013).
On the basis of information received, the Committee may propose that the Commission take a certain action or decision, or may raise awareness of an issue in its reports, press releases, or other activities. The Committee also publishes a newsletter discussing its activities called Africa Torture Watch, which is posted on its website under “Publications and Key Documents.”
The Committee submits Intersession Activity Reports to the Commission each year, which outline the activities the Committee has undertaken. The Commission also prepares an annual Activity Report that it submits to the African Union Assembly, which includes information gathered from the Committee, summarizing positive developments and areas of concern regarding human rights in Africa.
The Committee may be contacted by:
Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa
31 Bijilo Annex Layout, Kombo North District
Western Region P.O. Box 673 Banjul
- Email: The Committee’s website contains an automated system to send the Chairperson emails, by selecting the “Contact Commissioner” link.
The Committee does not accept individual complaints or requests for provisional measures. Such communications must be addressed to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. For additional information, see the Commission’s Guidelines for the Submission of Communications or IJRC’s resources on the African human rights system.