Filing a Communication before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights - A Complainant's Manual
In 2013, several organizations issued a guide for persons filing complaints with the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR), and the guide is now available in Arabic. The objective of the guide is to increase awareness of the ACHPR complaints instrument by offering a simple introduction to the steps involved in lodging the complaint and the various stages of the complaint process. The guide is addressed to individuals and organizations that do not have practical experience in this field.
The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights was adopted in June 1981 and went into force in October 1986. The charter created the African Commission under Article 30 “in order to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa.”1 Article 56 of the charter states that the commission shall consider correspondence put to it pertaining to human and peoples’ rights if it meets the following conditions:
1. Indicate their authors even if the latter request anonymity,
2. Are compatible with the Charter of the Organization of African Unity or with the present Charter,
3. Are not written in disparaging or insulting language directed against the State concerned and its institutions or to the Organization of African Unity,
4. Are not based exclusively on news discriminated through the mass media,
5. Are sent after exhausting local remedies, if any, unless it is obvious that this procedure is unduly prolonged,
6. Are submitted within a reasonable period from the time local remedies are exhausted or from the date the Commission is seized of the matter, and
7. Do not deal with cases which have been settled by these States involved in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, or the Charter of the Organization of African Unity or the provisions of the present Charter.
The guide contains general information about the complaints instrument as well as an introduction to the three stages of the process: receipt, acceptance on formal grounds (procedural step), and eligibility (substantive step). It also looks at the various mechanisms available for redress.
The guide was written by the North African Litigation Initiative (NALI), the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, and REDRESS, with support from other participating organizations. It was translated from English into Arabic by the EIPR in 2014.
1-Article 45 of the charter defines in detail the prerogatives of the African Commission:
The functions of the Commission shall be:
1. To promote Human and Peoples' Rights and in particular:
(a) To collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the field of human and peoples' rights, organize seminars, symposia and conferences, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples' rights, and should the case arise, give its views or make recommendations to Governments.
(b) To formulate and lay down, principles and rules aimed at solving legal problems relating to human and peoples' rights and fundamental freedoms upon which African Governments may base their legislations.
(c) Co-operate with other African and international institutions concerned with the promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights.
2. Ensure the protection of human and peoples' rights under conditions laid down by the present Charter.
3. Interpret all the provisions of the present Charter at the request of a State party, an institution of the OAU or an African Organization recognized by the OAU.
4. Perform any other tasks which may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.