African Commission's 58th session review


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(Banjul, the Gambia) - The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (the African Commission) held its 58th Session from 6 to 20 April 2016 in Banjul, The Gambia. As has been the case in the past, this session was preceded by three days of reflection on the human rights situation on the continent during a large gathering of African and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), commonly known as the NGO Forum.

The 58th Session was opened in view of a mixed backdrop of human rights in Africa.

In Burundi, since the uprising against the third term of Pierre Nkurunziza, the country has been sinking day by day into armed violence, which has already caused almost 500 deaths, resulted in thousands of injured and forced 260,000 Burundians, including human rights defenders, to flee the country. The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has decided to open a preliminary inquiry into the matter.

In South Sudan, in spite of African Union efforts, the country has still not been able to form a government of national unity. The possibility of rediscovering peace for this country not party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights is becoming more remote by the day.

In Egypt, human rights defenders remain a target of the Al Sissi Government. New measures seeking to further impede the work of NGOs are being enacted. Among such measures are a freeze on assets and a travel ban for certain civil society leaders, with some NGOs also being shut down.

Other scourges, such as terrorism, have been beleaguering Africa at the time of this session, with the multiplication of terrorist attacks on the continent hitting Bamako, Ouagadougou and Grand-Bassam to name but a few. The legitimate reaction of States faced with this scourge and the negative impact that such reaction can have on human rights led the African Commission to adopt its guidelines on countering terrorism and the respect of human rights in 2015.

Nevertheless, several positive developments should also be noted on the continent in the strengthening of democracy, the respect of human rights and the rule of law.

One such development can be found in recent presidential elections: in Benin, where power was peacefully rotated, and in the Central African Republic, marking a turning point toward a way out of the years of political and armed crisis that have long tormented the country.

Even though the situations of these countries do not appear on the agenda for the session, they came to the fore during several panels and side events in which the commissioners of the African Commission took part.

One item that did figure on the agenda for this session, however, was the review of the human rights situation in three States: Mali, Namibia and South Africa. Mali presented its periodic report covering the period 2001-2011, while South Africa and Namibia presented their second and sixth periodic reports respectively, covering 2001-2011 for South Africa and 2011-2014 for Namibia. An overview of the discussions held over the course of these reviews is contained in this publication. It should be noted that beyond the challenges specific to each country in human rights, certain common challenges remain. This is the case for the non-conformity of the reports presented by several States with the Guidelines for State Reporting under the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa;[1] for the lack of clear statistics on the progress made in several areas of human rights; and for reports meeting the African Commission guidelines on the presentation of periodic reports.

More than a dozen panels were organised on human rights issues, including on the guidelines for the respect of human rights while countering terrorism; on the General Comment on the Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Ill-Treatment; on policing and assemblies; on the importance of sexual and reproductive rights in the ‘African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women’; on the launch of General Comment no. 3 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Life (Article 4); and on the launch of the report on “Ending Violence and other Human Rights Violations based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” among many others.

In total, 498 participants took part in the Commission’s 58th Session, compared with 518 during the previous session. This included 166 representatives of 24 States Parties, compared with 138 delegates representing States at the 57th Session. With regard to NGOs, the level of participation remained constant between the two sessions, with 280 participants.

This session gave rise to several interesting outcomes. The African Commission adopted a total of 12 resolutions on thematic issues such as climate change and human rights, the right to education, problems affecting young people, and the situation of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2015; but also on country-specific situations, such as the human rights situations in the Republic of Congo and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

The NGO forum was also not without effect. Under the emblem of the African Year of Human Rights with a Particular Focus on the Rights of Women, it brought together almost 200 participants for three days of discussion, from 3 to 5 April, addressing the human rights situations prevailing across the continent. Through panel discussions and interest groups, the NGO Forum debated topics including the implementation of the African Commission report on women human rights defenders, the tenth anniversary of the African Youth Charter, the respect of human rights while countering terrorism, freedom of association and assembly in Africa, and the first semester of the African Year of Human Rights, among others. More than a dozen resolutions and recommendations on various human rights concerns were adopted and sent to the African Commission as NGO contributions to its deliberations on the human rights situation of the continent and to the country reviews for the session. A petition recalling the need to respect the independence of the African Commission was sent to the entities of the African Union.







[1] The Commission has adopted guidelines on the submission of periodic reports concerning the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa 


  • Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • Women's rights and WHRD
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Central African Republic
  • Egypt
  • Ivory Coast
  • Mali
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa