Africa: Engagement with the ACHPR 30 years on

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) has become a crucial entity in the promotion and protection of human rights in the continent over the past 30 years of its existence.

Despite considerable challenges, the ACHPR continues to work to push state parties to a progressive interpretation of the African Charter, and has delivered significant gains in the advancement of human rights in the continent. Its special mechanisms have not only achieved a more direct interaction with the different concerns on the ground, but have also served as close partners to civil society organisations working in the continent.

However, state parties remain the key actors in the implementation of the Charter, and in order to achieve this it is essential that state parties not only consistently adhere to state reporting procedures, but also take a proactive approach to the dialogues at the commission.

As the commission prepares for its 62nd Ordinary Session (25 April – 9 May 2018), it is disappointing to note that 22 countries are late by three or more state reports. Only nine countries have submitted all their reports, while six have never submitted any. This extremely low level of engagement in the process from countries across the continent shows a lack of commitment to the mechanism, which undermines not only state obligations under the Charter, but the utility of the ACHPR in promoting human rights progress in Africa.

Regional overview:

  • Of the 22 countries that are late by three or more reports, 18% are in Eastern Africa, 27% in West Africa, 14% in North Africa, 23% in Southern Africa, and 18% in Central Africa.
  • Of the 6 countries that have not submitted any reports to the ACHPR, 50% are in Eastern Africa with 33% and 17% of these being from Central and West Africa respectively. Protracted conflict in the Eastern Africa countries of South Sudan and Somalia, who sit 145th and 167th respectively on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index for 2017, has likely impacted these state’s compliance with their obligations under regional human rights mechanisms like the ACHPR.

While we note that full compliance with reporting requirements is not tantamount to state’s observance and promotion of human rights, it indicates a state’s commitment to comply with its obligations on free expression and other rights. We urge states at the 62nd session to take steps to improve engagement with the reporting mechanism and dialogue on core human rights issues through it.