n African Human Rights Law Journal - The jurisprudence of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights with respect to peoples' rights

Volume 6, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



The African Charter has many unique features that have given it a place of its own in the family of human rights instruments. The most important of these is its departure from the individual rights orientation of almost all human rights instruments by entrenching collective rights of peoples. It is the only instrument to provide for an elaborate list of peoples' rights beyond and above the internationally recognised and controversial right of all peoples to self-determination. Nevertheless, since the African Charter provides no definition to the term 'peoples' and the formulation of the rights in the Charter invites various interpretations, which are not always consistent, the elaboration of peoples' rights by the Charter was received with little or no optimism. This article seeks to examine the extent to which such expectations were borne out in the interpretations and applications of peoples' rights in the jurisprudence of the African Commission. To that end, the article seeks to identify the conceptual and legal issues raised with respect to peoples' rights and examines how the African Commission addressed them. Although it is maintained here that the jurisprudence of the Commission has clarified many of the doubts and questions that have been raised with respect to peoples' rights in the Charter, opening a new direction for the development of jurisprudence on such rights, there are some outstanding issues that the jurisprudence of the Commission did not address. The examination of the Commission's jurisprudence further reveals that there is no commonly discernable thread in the conceptualisation and interpretation of peoples' rights.

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