n African Human Rights Law Journal - Ten years of the Robben Island Guidelines and prevention of torture in Africa : for what purpose?

Volume 12, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



In 2002 the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a resolution containing the Guidelines and Measures for the Prohibition and Prevention of Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in Africa (Robben Island Guidelines). This is the first instrument adopted by the African Commission focused solely on preventing torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Ten years on, the article aims to examine the background to the adoption of the Robben Island Guidelines in order to explore the motives behind their development and to identify reasons for their subsequent lack of impact. The article will demonstrate that the context and institutional setting within which the Robben Island Guidelines were developed have had an impact on their level of implementation. The article arises out of a four-year research project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom, which is examining the implementation of soft law through an analysis of the use of the Robben Island Guidelines in practice. Through an analysis of this one document, the article hopes to offer some lessons for the drafting, use and relevance of other soft law documents in human rights law.

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