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Human Rights Protection

Human Rights Agreements and Organizations in the African System

The key document is the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted June 27, 1981, 1520 U.N.T.S. 217, and sometimes called the Banjul Charter, after the capital city of The Gambia, where the Charter was drafted. The Charter was adopted under the auspices of the Organization of African Unity, which in 2002 was succeeded by the African Union.

The key body created by the African Charter is the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. The Commission has carried out a great deal of valuable human rights work, much of which is documented on its website.

There is not space here to deal with the twists of recent history in the development of the African human rights mechanism.  It is enough simply to point out that in July 2008 the African Union adopted a Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights.  By the Statute of the Court, which is annexed to the Protocol, the Court will sit in two sections, a General Affairs Section and a Human Rights Section.  The jurisdiction of the Court will extend, inter alia, to all cases relating to the application and interpretation of the African Charter and associated human rights instruments.

In the meantime, the present-day African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights has recently become much more active, and has entered a good number of judgments.

Two more international human rights agreements of significance in the African context are: the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

An excellent online source of information on human rights in Africa is the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. It has a page called African Human Rights Resources.

Additional research in the African human rights system, in particular on case law, can be done using the African Human Rights Case Law Analyser.

Secondary Sources on Human Rights in Africa