n African Human Rights Law Journal - Confidentiality and the implementation of the decisions of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Volume 19 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has been criticised for its restrictive application of article 59 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights resulting, it is argued, in a shroud of secrecy around the protective elements of its work. This article explores the application of the principles and presumptions in article 59 and the confidentiality covering the communication procedure of the African Commission after the adoption of the decision. Research reveals that there may be a greater likelihood of implementation of the recommendations in the decision if it is visible and a variety of actors are made aware of its existence and these measures that the state then takes, or fails to take. Drawing upon an Economic and Social Research Council-funded project, the article argues that article 59 in practice has so far been applied without a great deal of thought, to procedures post-decision that monitor the implementation of the recommendations. Thus, at present the African Commission has slipped into presuming that measures taken by the state to implement recommendations, evidence presented by the complainants (or indeed other actors) on the extent to which it has done so, and the Commission’s own assessment, fall within the communication procedure and, therefore, by default are confidential. Yet, article 59 does not require this, neither do the Rules of Procedure, and a blanket approach to confidentiality post-decision is not appropriate. The article recommends that the African Commission can improve publication and visibility of the decision itself; and should be making available on its website and in documentation information on what measures the state has taken to implement the decision.

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