African Commission | Key developments from the 60th session


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After an unsuccessful attempt to host the 58th session due to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the government of Niger finally hosted the ordinary session of the 60th African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The session was held from 8 to 22 May 2017 in Niamey, the capital of Niger. 

The session was opened by Elhadj Issoufou Mahamadou, the President of the Republic of Niger.

The agenda of the ordinary session had approximately twelve panel discussions that reflected, reported on and launched reports and guidelines on some of the pertinent human rights issues faced by the continent. Amongst the publications launched were the Guidelines on Policing and Freedom of Assembly, the declassification and decriminalisation of petty offences in Africa, and the 7th edition of the Africa Torture Watch, just to name a few.

It was the first time that the African Commission considered and discussed State reports produced by the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). The reports of Senegal and Uganda were presented to the African Commission in accordance with paragraph 25 of the APRM base document NEPAD/HSGIC/03-2003/APRM/MOU/Annex II. This paragraph provides that at the fifth and last stage of the Peer Review Process, six months after the report has been considered by the Heads of State and Government of the participating member countries, it should be formally and publicly tabled in key regional and sub-regional structures such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The APRM is a mutually agreed instrument voluntarily acceded to by the member states of the African Union as a self-monitoring mechanism. It was founded in 2003.

The mandate of the APRM is to encourage conformity in regard to political, economic and corporate governance values, codes and standards, among African countries and the objectives in socio-economic development within the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

Other issues discussed include human rights situations on the continent and the reports of commissioners in charge of specific mandates.

Despite the progress made in the promotion and protection of human rights, the continued conflict and instability in Burundi, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are slowing down peace and stability efforts on the continent. The adoption of restrictive laws by some State parties has undermined the protection of human rights. A particular concern raised by participants is the adoption of counter-terrorism laws which negatively impact on the protection of human rights in countries which have experienced or are experiencing terrorist attacks in Africa.

As the Commission approaches it 30th anniversary in November, more effort should be made to explore how the Commission can play a more decisive role in preventing conflict and escalation of human rights violations  

The State combined periodic report of Mauritania was the only one considered at this ordinary session. It was reviewed in accordance with article 62 of the African Charter which obliges State parties to submit periodic reports on the implementation of the African Charter at the national level, every two years. The Government of Mauritania presented its 10th-14th periodic report, covering a period from 2006 to 2014. Main human rights concerns discussed during this review are highlighted in this publication.    

Outcomes of the session

The Commission granted observer status to seven NGOs, bringing the number of NGOs with observer status before the Commission to 511. Affiliate status was granted to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, bringing the number of affiliated National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) to 27. This continued increase in the number of NGOs with observer status and NHRIs affiliated to the Commission was analysed as an indicator of good collaboration between the commission and these stakeholders and increased interest in the Commission’s work. This is also reflected by the increase of panel discussions organised by NGOs with Commission-specific mechanisms. For example, more than twelve panels were organised prior to the opening of the African Commission’s session.

The Commission adopted a total of ten resolutions, all dealing with thematic issues such as the right to life, the situation of human right defenders in Africa, and the need for member States to take legislative measures to protect human rights defenders..

The Commission considered eleven communications and granted provisional measures for three.The content of the communication is available here.

Among key documents adopted, it is important to mention the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa. After the first consideration and the call for public contributions, the Commission finally adopted these Guidelines, which follow on from the study on Freedom of Association and Assembly adopted in 2014.

The guidelines provide authoritative guidance to State parties and law makers on the legislative and administrative measures to ensure the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of Association and Assembly. This is a significant, timely gain for civil society organisations in particular when some State parties are adopting counter-terrorism laws that restrict and suppress the civic space.

Photo: ISHR - M. Clément N. Voulé gives a copy of the Model Law for the protection of human rights defenders to Mr Marou Amadou, Niger Minister for Justice and Human Rights 


  • Africa
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights