African Commission: 58th session State periodic report review


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(Banjul, The Gambia) - Article 62 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights requires Member States to submit State Periodic Reports to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Commission) every two years. Pursuant to this, Namibia, Mali and South Africa presented their State Periodic Reports during the 58th ordinary session of the Commission.


Namibia presented its 6th periodic report that covered to the reporting period of January 2012 to December 2013. The report also contains Namibia’s initial report about the implementation of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol).

Civil society space

The report on the Maputo Protocol was welcomed by Commissioner King, Namibia’s Commissioner Rapporteur who referring to issues raised at the NGO Forum, enquired as to whether civil society organisations (CSOs) were consulted in the drafting of the report and if so how the Government publicised the report in the country.

‘The Government informed CSOs about the report…While we do not give them money to carry out their work, the Government provides exemption with customs and helps with registration. We also have an important meeting scheduled for June 2016 with CSOs, which will be aimed at bringing more stakeholders on board to ensure inclusive participation on human rights issues.'

Women’s rights

‘The Government admits in its report that there are economic and cultural barriers to access justice for women. What measures are being taken to ensure that women are adequately represented? Moreover, give us an indication of the roles and number of women in decision-making positions. What measures are being taken to ensure that women participate in decision-making?’ enquired Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor the Special Rapporteur on the rights of women.

The delegation explained that Namibia’s Parliament is composed of 23.1% of women. Statistically the country is the 3rd country in Africa and 12th in the World with regards to women representation in Parliament. They added that there are 5 women judges out of 20 in the country and info on magistrates would be made available in the final submitted written responses.

Participants were informed that Namibia has a Revised National Gender Policy of 2010 to 2020, which aims to ensure that measures to promote gender mainstreaming and gender equality are incorporated in society’s way of life.

While the delegation stressed that there were no limits to access to justice for women, Commissioners and participants noted that the Government explicitly mentioned they were not aware of the Study on the situation of women human rights defenders in Africa and the recent Report of the Study Group on freedom of association and assembly in Africa and would appreciate information on the same.

Freedom of expression and access to information

The African Commission Chairperson and Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information Pansy Faith Tlakula commended Namibia for being ranked number 17 globally and number 1 in Africa on press freedom, according to the World Press Freedom Index in February 2015.

‘There have been concerns raised about Namibia’s Communication Act, it apparently allows for the Government to intercept e-mails, phone calls, bank transactions, text messages and so on without a warrant, is this true?’ she enquired.

The delegation affirmed that Section 70 of the Act does indeed allow for interception of communication, at the President’s discretion and would be done as necessary with the purpose of combating crime as well as internal and international security.

As a measure to avoid abuse, the delegate explained that all staff involved in such inception were required to take an oath before the highest court affirming that they would not abuse their office and agreeing to serve a 100,000Namibian dollars or 10years in prison penalty if convicted for doing so.

Human rights defenders

The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Commissioner Alapini Gansou shared that the African Commission was aware of the Government contemplating a new law to regulate assemblies.

‘The report says the provisions of the law will be applicable to religious assemblies and give police the necessary powers to control crowds and gatherings. Will this law be in line with Namibia’s commitments to freedom of assembly, association and other international human rights commitments,’ she cautioned.


Human right defenders

The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Commissioner Rapporteur for Mali Mrs Reine Alpani-Gansou called on the Government to receive the African Commission for State visits. She expressed concern that Mali’s national human rights institution (NHRI) was not in line with the Paris Principles and enquired into concrete measures in Mali to protect and promote human rights defenders.

‘We are convinced that our NHRI meets the Paris Principles as it has an independent administrative authority composed of 9 permanent members,’ the head of delegation explained.  ‘In the past, the NHRI did not have its own budget and now it does making it financially autonomous,’ he added. The delegation also highlighted that they collaborate with a civil society network in Mali which is composed of at least 40 human rights related NGOs.

Women’s rights

Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor congratulated Mali for signing and ratifying the Maputo protocol. She encouraged the Government of Mali to report on the progress made to implement this protocol, explaining that it was required for all signatories of the Maputo Protocol.

‘What actions have been taken and how successful have they been in integrating women into the political and social life in Mali?’ she asked.

Participants were informed that the mainstreaming of women and gender issues is underway in the country. Given that women constitute 50,5% of the population, there is a 30% quota requirement for women to occupy public office. Ministries have been strictly instructed by the President to comply with the 30% quota. As of 2000 there were 6 women Ministers out of 32, double from the 1991 figure.

Extractives sector

Highlighting the inadequate information in the State report with regards to the extractive sector, Commissioner Derrso Chair of Working Group on extractives asked if the Mali mining code provides for a transparent process of granting mining contracts and the involvement of civil society and communities in this regard.

‘Transparency measures have been put in place, for example Mali joining the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative in 2006 of which we were declared compliant in August 2013,’ the head of delegation explained.

Regarding mining permits it was explained that there is consultation organised by the State representative or the Mayor of the community where mining will take place. A report for this consultation is part of the EIA and the community development plan. They added that any forced or involuntary relocation would automatically result in the right to compensation.

South Africa

Women issues  

The delegation recognised that black South African women were the persons whose rights were the most affected in society. They noted that it was crucial to pursue the transformation of society, addressing patriarchy, ageism, sexism and allowing women to take control of their lives. To this end the country has a standing Ministry of Women, which has the goal to promote the rights and dignity of women. In 2000 the Parliament adopted a National Policy and the country also ratified CEDAW and recently submitted its report. On 9 August 2015 the President also launched a report on the Status of Women in the South African Economy.

‘Were organisations dealing with women’s affairs consulted during the drafting for the state report? Kindly explain why have you have not implemented the Maputo Protocol. I appreciate the measures taken to promote women, so what hinders the promotion and operationalisation of Maputo Protocol,’ enquired Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor.

The delegation explained they were looking into ways to operationalise the Maputo Protocol. They stressed that the South African Constitution provides that all international laws that the country is a party to must be considered when implementing domestic law in the country. They said this includes laws on child marriage for example. 

Freedom of expression and access to information

Commissioner King, speaking on behalf of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information commended South Africa on its Access to Information Act and the recent establishment of the Information Regulator in the country. She cautioned that the approval of the Protection of State Information Bill or the ‘Secrecy Bill’ has drawn much criticism as there are concerns that the bill undermines the freedom of access to information. Lastly she asked for clarity about criminal defamation in the country, giving the example for the Pretoria high court judgement, which held that criminal defamation against the media was not unconstitutional and should remain in our law, in the prosecution of journalist Mr. Cecil Motsepe for an article he wrote in the Sowetan.

Human Rights Defenders

Focusing on the status of civil society, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders requested for disaggregated statistics on NGOs operating in South Africa. She recalled the recommendations made to the State in its last review and highlighted that some responses pertaining to her mechanism were missing. She enquired into the readiness of the country to adopt a law that protects HRDs and whether South Africa was ready to undertake the implementation of the recommendations in the report on the situation of WHRDs in Africa. To this end the delegation indicated that they were aware of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on HRDs, adding that they were committed to protecting and promoting HRDs all over the world. They explained that South Africa has no registration requirement for civil society organisations however, figures of those officially registered would be made available.

Concluding remarks:


Commissioner King, Namibia’s Commissioner Rapporteur informed the delegation that the report on the Study on the Situation of Women Human Rights Defenders in Africa and the recent report of the Study Group on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa would be provided. She encouraged the Government to also utilise the guidelines for reporting on the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights. She stressed the need to enact the anti-torture bill and scaling up of efforts to monitor the rights of refugees so that their rights and freedoms were not infringed as well as the rights of defenders and communities living in extractives areas.


The Commissioner Rapporteur for Mali called on the Government to give substantive responses to questions on indigenous people and freedom of association that did not have appropriate responses during the session. She reminded the delegation about the implementation of the recommendations drawn from the fact-finding mission in Mali that looks into issues of impunity amongst others.

‘Going forward you need to bring your report to the African Commission every two years and it must be in line with Art 26 of the Maputo protocol,’ emphasised the African Commission chairperson.

South Africa

Commissioner Rapporteur for South Africa expressed gratitude for a well presented and substantive State Report. He mentioned he was impressed with the country’s judicial framework and the interpretation of the Constitution into 11 languages including brail. Commissioner Med S. K. Kaggwa called on South Africa to give substantive and written responses to questions regarding the status of the implementation of the Marikana Commission of enquiry recommendations. He also called on South Africa to ratify African regional treaties and operationalise the Maputo Protocol.

In her closing remarks the vice Chairperson of the African Commission, Commissioner Soyata Maiga called on South Africa to help the Commission in its struggle on some specific human rights issues such as SOGI. Lastly, she requested the delegation to consider hosting one session of the African Commission.


58th African Commission Communiqué

To download the communiqué click here


  • Africa
  • Corporate accountability
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • NGOs
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • ACHPR Special Rapporteur on HRDs
  • Mali
  • Namibia
  • South Africa