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African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Commission) is the main human rights body for Africa. It was established in 1987 following the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights by the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union).  The African Commission is tasked with protecting and promoting human and peoples’ rights.  It also interprets the Charter as it applies to particular cases and can guide African governments in ensuring their legislation and practices comply with the Charter.

Composition and mandate

The Commission is made up of 11 members who are nominated by state governments and then elected by secret ballot through the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU (AU Assembly) for a six-year renewable term. AU member states can nominate up to two individuals based on their human rights and legal expertise, high moral integrity and impartiality.

The Commission can create special mechanisms such as special rapporteurs, committees and working groups to deal with specific human rights issues.   Examples include the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, the Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, the Special Rapporteur on Rights of Women, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Africa and the Working Group on Death Penalty and Extra-Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary killings in Africa.

The Commission undertakes a variety of activities to implement its mandate including:

  • Receiving and considering complaints, referred to as “communications” concerning alleged human rights violations, and making recommendations to the state in question
  • Considering periodic reports, submitted every two years, by states parties to the Charter, and making recommendations to improve implementation of the Charter
  • Making recommendations to AU governments to promote and protect human rights or address past violations.
  • Conducting country promotional visits.
  • Investigating human rights violations through fact-finding missions.
  • Interpreting the Charter and adopting further principles or guidelines to clarify the Charter.

The African Commission and Sudan

Sudan ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights in 1986 and as such is bound by its provisions. Commissioner Lawrence Murugu Mute, a Kenyan national, was appointed in 2013 as the Commissioner responsible for following human rights developments in Sudan for a six year renewable term.

State reports and recommendations to Sudan

In accordance with Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, states parties to the African Charter are required to submit a report every two years on the legislative or other measures taken to give effect to the rights and freedoms set out in the African Charter. The state report is considered at a session of the African Commissioners when members of the Commission enter into dialogue with representatives of the state under review.  NGOs can submit alternative, or “shadow reports” to the African Commission to set out their concerns about human rights in the country under examination. After the review session has been held, the African Commission issues recommendations, referred to as “Concluding Observations” to the government of the state concerning its compliance with the provisions of the African Charter.

The periodic report of the Government of Sudan is currently overdue, and should have been presented in 2014. The latest report submitted by the Government of Sudan covered the period 2008-2012 and was considered by the African Commission at its 51st Ordinary Session in the Gambia that took place on 18 April – 2 May 2012.  ACJPS and partners submitted two “shadow” reports to the African Commission in advance of the session to highlight our concerns about the human rights situation in Sudan. A number of these were reflected in the Concluding Observations adopted by the African Commission, which included recommendations for the Government of Sudan to:

  • Observe the moratorium on the death penalty and take measures for its total abolition.
  • Take urgent and concrete measures to abolish laws that allow corporal punishment including stoning, amputation, cross-amputation and whipping, and in its next report provide the number of persons on death row.
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure freedom of expression and access to information.
  • Consider enacting a law criminalising torture.
  • Repeal Article 52(3) of the National Security Act 2010 that provides members of the NISS and their associates with immunity from criminal and civil procedures.
  • Take immediate steps to close down all unofficial places of detention.
  • Undertake a range of measures to promote and protect women’s rights, including enacting legislation prohibiting female genital mutilations, violence and other discriminatory practices against women.
  • Take the necessary legislative measures and material preparations to extend free legal assistance to all crimes where the accused person cannot afford to pay legal representation fees.
  • Ensure that the deportation of refugees within its territory conforms to international and regional human rights standards.
  • In its next Periodic Report provide information on the measures taken by the authorities to deal with excesses of the police and other security agents.
  • Takes measures to ratify international and regional human rights instruments, including: the Convention against Torture; the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption; The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance; and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Sudan ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance the following year, on 19 June 2013.

Sudan’s 4th and 5th Periodic Report to the African Commission, 2008-2012

Sudan’s 3rd Periodic Report to the African Commission, 2003-2007

Sudan’s 2nd Periodic Report to the African Commission, 1999-2003

Sudan’s 1st Periodic Report to the African Commission , 1994-1996

Complaints against Sudan (Communications)

NGOs, lawyers, and other parties representing victims, or victims of human rights violations, can submit a complaint to the African Commission alleging that a State party has violated the African Charter. Complaints can also be submitted by one state against another, although this is rarely used.  In cases where the African Commission determines there has been violation of the African Charter, it makes recommendations to the state responsible, for example to make reparations for harm caused, or to undertake reform of legislation, policy and practice to guarantee non-repetition of the harm caused.
If a state fails to implement recommendations made, the African Commission may refer the issue to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights for further deliberation, under Rule 118 of the 2010 Rules of Procedure of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The African Commission has reached a final decision and made recommendations to the Government of Sudan in the following cases concerning Sudan:

ACJPS has translated an unofficial Arabic version of the text, available here.

Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) v Sudan, adopted 27 May 2009, Violated articles: 1, 4, 5, 6, 7.1, 12.1, 12.2, 14, 16, 18.1, 22, 2, 3, 9, 12.3, 13.1, 13.2; English Version available at: http://www.achpr.org/files/sessions/45th/comunications/279.03-296.05/achpr45_279.03_296.05_eng.pdf.

ACJPS and partners have submitted the following complaints against Sudan which are ongoing:
 

  • Communication 401/11: Hawa Abdallah (represented by African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies) v. Sudan.  
  • Communication 443/13: Safia Ishaq Mohamed Issa (represented by The REDRESS Trust) v. Republic of Sudan.
  • Communication 471/14: Meriam Yahia Ibrahim & three others v. The Republic of Sudan.
  • Communication 391/10: Abdelrahman Mohammed Gassim and 7 Others (represented by East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, The Redress Trust, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, and the Darfur Bar Association) v. Sudan.  
  • Communication 510/15: Abdel Moneem Adam Mohammed (Represented by REDRESS, ACJPS and EHAHRDP) v. Sudan.  
  • Communication 511/15: Dr. Amin Mekki Medani and Mr. Farouq Abu Eissa (Represented by FIDH, ACJPS, OMCT & REDRESS) v. The Sudan.  

Country visits to Sudan

The African Commission regularly visits state parties, either on promotional visits, or to conduct fact-finding and investigation missions on the ground in respect of allegations of human rights violations in a particular state.

The African Commission has conducted and reported on three country visits to Sudan so far. Commissioner Lawrence Mute, Sudan Commissioner conducted a promotional visit to Sudan on 22-28 May 2015. Watch this space for more information on his trip.

Report available in English language only.
This is the report of the mission of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights that took place from 8th to 18th July 2004. The mission focused on the situation in Darfur.

Report available in English language only.

Report available in English language only.

Useful external links:

This post is also available in: Arabic

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