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African Commitments to Human Rights
A review of eight NEPAD countries

By Giliane Cherubin-Doumbia
A Monograph for the African Human Security Initiative


The African Human Security Initiative (AHSI)

AHSI is a network of seven African non-governmental research organisations that
have come together to measure the performance of key African governments in
promoting human security. The project is inspired by a wish to contribute to the
ambitions of the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and
the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). Whereas the APRM process has defined
a comprehensive set of objectives, standards, criteria and indicators that cover four
broad areas, AHSI only engages with one of the four, namely issues of political
governance in so far as these relate to human security.Within this area, each AHSI
partner has identified a set of key commitments that African leaders have entered into
at the level of OAU/AU heads of states meetings and summits. A “shadow review” of
how these commitments have been implemented in practice has then been conducted.
Eight countries have been chosen for review, namely Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya,
Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda. All eight are members of NEPAD and have
acceded to the APRM. While not constituting an exhaustive list of human security
challenges in Africa, the AHSI Network selected the following seven clusters of
commitments: human rights, democracy and governance; civil society engagement;
small arms and light weapons; peacekeeping and conflict resolution; anti-corruption;
and terrorism and organised crime. The AHSI partners are the South African Institute
for International Affairs (SAIIA), the Institute for Human Rights and Development in
Africa (IHRDA), the Southern Africa Human Rights Trust (SAHRIT), the West African
Network for Peace (WANEP), the African Security Dialogue and Research (ASDR),
the African Peace Forum (APFO) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Table of contents

Preface - PDF 58kb

Acronyms and abbreviations - PDF 47kb

Executive summary - PDF 78kb

Chapter One
Reviewing human rights in the context of human security - PDF 152kb
1.1 Background
1.2 Linking human rights and human security
1.3 The choice of AU human rights commitments
1.3.1 The Constitutive Act of the African Union
1.3.2 The Kigali and Grand Bay Declarations
1.3.3 The CSSDCA Solemn Declaration and Memorandum of Understanding
1.3.4 The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
1.3.5 The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
1.3.6 The Refugee Convention and Khartoum Recommendations on Refugees
1.4 Structure of the report
Chapter Two
General acceptance of regional human rights standards - PDF 113kb
2.1 General commitments under the African Charter
2.1.1 Party to the African Charter
2.1.2 State reporting
2.1.3 Communications
2.2 The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
2.3 National human rights institutions
2.4 Conclusion

Chapter Three
Right to personal safety and security - PDF 163kb

3.1 Right to life

3.1.1 Constitutional protections
3.1.2 Extrajudicial, summary, or unlawful killings
3.1.3 Disappearances / abductions
3.1.4 Death due to harsh prison conditions
3.1.5 Acts committed by vigilante, terrorist, rebel groups or criminals

3.2 Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention

3.2.1 National legislation
3.2.2 Prolonged or illegal detention without charge
3.2.3 Prolonged pre-trial detention
3.2.4 Remand prisoners

3.3 Freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

3.3.1 Constitutional protections
3.3.2 Ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture and recognition of competency of the UN Committee Against Torture
3.3.3 Torture of suspected criminals, detainees, and convicts 46
3.3.4 Harsh prison conditions 48
3.3.5 Other targeted groups 50

3.4 Conclusion 51

Chapter Four
Personal safety and security of vulnerable groups: Children and refugees - PDF 148kb

4.1 Security of children

4.1.1 Ratification of the African Charter Relating to the Rights and Welfare of the Child
4.1.2 Ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
4.1.3 National legislation
4.1.4 Harmful cultural practices against children
4.1.5 Child soldiers
4.1.6 Child labour and child trafficking

4.2 Security of refugees

4.2.1 Ratification of the OAU Convention
4.2.2 Ratification of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol
4.2.3 National legislation
4.2.4 Non-refoulement and asylum in practice

4.3 Conclusion

Chapter Five
Freedom of expression - PDF 114kb

5.1 Free and independent press
5.2 National legislation
5.3 Media repression
5.4 Suppression of protests, demonstrations and marches
5.5 Political parties, non-governmental organisations, and other groups
5.6 Conclusion

Chapter Six
Access to justice - PDF 130kb

6.1 Fair and public hearing by competent, independent and impartial bodies
6.2 Right to counsel
6.3 Equality before the courts

6.3.1 Accessibility

6.4 Right to an effective remedy

6.4.1 Impunity
6.4.2 Amnesty

6.5 Conclusion

Chapter Seven
Conclusion: The divergence between regional human rights standards and country practices - PDF 76kb