n Law, Democracy & Development - Seven years in business : evaluating developments at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights

Special issue 1
  • ISSN : 1028-1053
  • E-ISSN: 2077-4907



The creation of the African human rights system with the adoption in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1981 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Charter) under the auspices of the former Organization of African Unity (OAU) and its entry into force on 21 October 1986, was a culmination of the yearning of many African civil society and human rights organisations to have a home-grown human rights mechanism that works to promote and to protect the human rights of the peoples of Africa. It is now common knowledge that the 1961 International Commission of Jurists' "African Conference on the Rule of Law" was one of the early fires in this regard. One of the resolutions of the conference (the famous "Law of Lagos") was in effect the creation of a human rights court under a proposed "African Convention on Human Rights", which "was to lay down the basis for future efforts for the establishment of rules and mechanisms for the regional promotion and protection of human rights in Africa", and "to give full effect to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights." Granted that it took 20 years after the "Law of Lagos" for the African Charter that sets the tone for a regional human rights regime to be adopted, its adoption was a welcome development. During the early period of this development, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (African Commission) was the only organ mandated under the African Charter to: 1) engage in promoting human rights; 2) protect human rights; 3) examine state reports; and 4) provide interpretation of the Charter. As part of its protection mandate, the African Commission innovated the hearing of individual complaints for human rights violations brought to it by victims of such violations or their representatives.

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