African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
Laws of the Federation of Nigeria
March 17, 1983
African States members of the Organisation of African Unity, parties to the
present convention entitled "African Charter on Human and Peoples'
Decision 115 (CXV) of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at its
Sixteenth Ordinary Session held in Monrovia, Liberia, from 17th to 20th July,
1979 on the preparation of "a preliminary draft on an African Charter on
Human and Peoples' Rights providing inter alia for the establishment of bodies
to promote and protect human and peoples' fights";
the Charter of the Organisation of African Unity, which stipulates that
"freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the
achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples";
the pledge they solemnly made in Article 2 of the said Charter to eradicate all
forms of colonialism from Africa, to co-ordinate and intensify their
co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa and
to promote international co-operation having due regard to the Charter of United
Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
into consideration the virtues of their historical tradition and the values of
African civilisation which should inspire and characterise their reflection on
the concept of human peoples' rights;
on the one hand, that fundamental human rights stem from the attributes of human
beings, which justifies their international protection and on the other hand
that the reality and respect of peoples' rights should necessarily guarantee
that the enjoyment of rights and freedom also implies the performance of duties
on the part of everyone;
that it is henceforth essential to pay particular attention to the right to
development and that civil and political rights cannot be dissociated from
economic, social and cultural rights in their conception as well as universality
and that the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights is a guarantee
for the enjoyment of civil and political rights;
of their duty to achieve the total liberation of Africa, the peoples of which
are still struggling for their dignity and genuine independence, and undertaking
to eliminate colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, Zionism and to dismantle
aggressive foreign military bases and all forms of discrimination, particularly
those based on race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion or political
their adherence to the principles of human and peoples' rights and freedom
contained in the declarations, conventions and other instruments adopted by the
Organisation of African Unity, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the
Convinced of their duty to promote and protect human and peoples' rights and
freedom taking into account the importance traditionally attached to these
rights and freedom in Africa;
agreed as follows:
Rights and duties
Human and Peoples' Rights
Member States of the Organisation of African Unity parties to the present
Charter shall recognise the rights, duties and freedom enshrined in this Charter
and shall undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to
individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedom
recognised and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind
such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any
other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status.
Every individual shall be equal before the law.
Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.
beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his
life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this
individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a
human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of
exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture,
cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited.
individual shall have the right to liberty and to the security of his person. No
one may be deprived of his Freedom except for reasons and conditions previously
laid down by law. In particular, no one may be arbitrarily arrested or detained.
Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises:
the right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating
his Fundamental rights as recognised and guaranteed by conventions, laws,
regulations and customs in Force;
the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a competent court or
the right to defence, including the right to be defended by counsel of his
the right to be tried within a reasonable time by an impartial court or
No one may be condemned For an act or omission which did not constitute a
legally punishable offence at the time it was committed. No penalty may be
inflicted for an offence For which no provision was made at the time it was
committed. Punishment is personal and can be imposed only on the offender.
of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed.
No on may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the
exercise of these freedoms.
Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions
within the law.
Every individual shall have the right to free association provided that he
abides by the law.
Subject to the obligation of solidarity provided for in Article 29 no one may be
compelled to join an association.
individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of
this right shall be subject only to necessary restriction provided for by law in
particular those enacted in the interest of national security, the safety,
health, ethnics and rights and freedoms of others.
Every individual shall have the right to freedom of movement and residence
within the borders of a State provided he abides by the law.
Every individual shall have the right to leave any country including his own,
and to return to his country. This right may only be subject to restrictions,
provided for by law for the protection of national security, law and order,
public health or morality.
Every individual shall have the right, when persecuted to seek and obtain asylum
in other countries in accordance with the laws of those countries and
A non-national legally admitted in a territory of a State Party to the present
Charter, may only be expelled from it by virtue of a decision taken in
accordance with the law.
The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited. Mass expulsion shall be
that which is aimed at national, racial, ethnic or religious groups.
Every citizen shall have the right to participate freely in the government of
his country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in
accordance with provisions of the law.
Every citizen shall have the right of equal access to the public service of his
Every individual shall have the right of access to public property and services
in strict equality of all persons before the law.
right to property shall be guaranteed. It may only be encroached upon in the
interest of public need or in the general interest of the community and in
accordance with the provisions of appropriate laws.
individual shall have the right to work under equitable and satisfactory
conditions and shall receive equal pay for equal work.
Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of
physical and mental health.
States Parties to the present Charter shall take the necessary measures to
protect the health of their people and to ensure that they receive medical
attention when they are sick.
Every individual shall have the right to education.
Every individual may freely, take part in the cultural life of his community.
The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognised by the
community shall be the duty of the State.
The family shall be the natural unit and basis of society. It shall be protected
by the State which shall take care of its physical health and morals.
The State shall have the duty to assist the family which is the custodian of
morals and traditional values recognised by the community.
The State shall ensure the elimination of every discrimination against women and
also ensure the protection of the rights of the woman and the child as
stipulated in international declarations and conventions.
The aged and the disabled shall also have the right to special measures of
protection in keeping with their physical or moral needs.
peoples shall be equal. They shall enjoy the same respect and shall have the
same rights. Nothing shall justify the domination of a people by another.
All peoples shall have right to existence. They shall have the unquestionable
and inalienable right to self-determination. They shall freely determine their
political status and shall pursue their economic and social development
according to the policy they have freely chosen.
Colonised or oppressed people shall have the right to free themselves from the
bonds of domination by resorting to any means recognised by the international
All peoples shall have the right to the assistance of the States Parties to the
present Charter in their liberation struggle against foreign domination, be it
political, economic or cultural.
All peoples shall Freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources. This
right shall be exercised in the exclusive interest of the people. In no case
shall a people be deprived of it.
In case of spoliation the disposed people shall have the right to the lawful
recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation.
The free disposal of wealth and natural resources shall be exercised without
prejudice to the obligation of promoting international economic co-operation
based on mutual respect, equitable exchange and the principle of international
States Parties to the present Charter shall individually and collectively
exercise the right to free disposal of their wealth and natural resources with a
view to strengthening African Unity and solidarity.
States Parties to the present Charter shall undertake to eliminate all forms of
foreign economic exploitation particularly that practised by international
monopolies so as to enable their peoples to fully benefit from the advantage
derived from their national resources.
All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural
development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal
enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind.
States shall have the duty, individually or collectively to ensure the exercise
of the right to development.
All peoples shall have the right to national and international peace and
security. The principles of solidarity and friendly relations implicitly
affirmed by the Charter of the United Nations and reaffirmed by that of the
Organisation of African Unity shall govern relations between States.
For the purpose of strengthening peace, solidarity and friendly relations,
States Parties to the present Charter shall ensure that:
any individual enjoying the right of asylum under Article 12 of the present
Charter shall not engage in subversive activities against his country of origin
or any other State Party to the present Charter;
their territories shall not be used as bases for subversive or terrorist
activities against the people of any other State Party to the present Charter.
peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to
Parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to promote and ensure through
teaching, education and publication, the respect of the rights and freedom
contained in the present Charter and to see to it that these freedom and rights
as well as corresponding obligations and duties are understood.
Parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to guarantee the independence
of the Courts and shall allow the establishment and improvement of appropriate
national institutions entrusted with the promotion and protection of the rights
and freedom guaranteed by the present Charter.
Every individual shall have duties towards his family and society, the State and
other legally recognised communities and the international community.
The rights and freedom of each individual shall be exercised with due regard to
the rights of others, collective security, morality and common interest.
individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without
discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and
reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance.
individual shall also have the duty:
To preserve the harmonious development of the family and to work for the
cohesion and respect of the family; to respect his parents at all times, to
maintain them in case of need;
To serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual
abilities at its service;
Not to compromise the security of the State whose national or resident he is;
To preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity, particularly when the
latter is threatened;
To preserve and strengthen the national independence and the territorial
integrity of his country and to contribute to its defence in accordance with the
To work to the best of his abilities and competence, and to pay taxes imposed by
law in the interest of the society;
To preserve and strengthen positive African cultural values in his relations
with other members of the society, in the spirit of tolerance, dialogue and
consultation and, in general, to contribute to the promotion of the moral well
being of society;
To contribute to the best of his abilities, at all times and at all levels, to
the promotion and achievement of African Unity.
Measures of Safeguard
and organisation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, hereinafter called "the
Commission ", shall be established with the Organisation of African Unity
to promote human and peoples' rights and ensure their protection in Africa.
The Commission shall consist of eleven members chosen from amongst African
personalities of the highest reputation, known for their high morality,
integrity, impartiality and competence in matters of human and peoples' rights;
particular consideration being given to persons having legal experience.
The members of the Commission shall serve in their personal capacity.
Commission shall not include more than one national of the same State.
members of the Commission shall be elected by secret ballot by the Assembly of
Heads of State and Government, from a list of persons nominated by the States
Parties to the present Charter.
State Party to the present Charter may not nominate more than two candidates.
The candidates must have the nationality of one of the States Parties to the
present Charter. When two candidates are nominated by a State, one of them may
not be a national of that State.
The Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity shall invite States
Parties to the present Charter at least four months before the elections to
The Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity shall make an
alphabetical list of the persons thus nominated and communicate it to the Heads
of State and Government at least one month before the elections.
members of the Commission shall be elected for a six year period and shall be
eligible or re-election. However, the term of office of four of the members
elected at the first election shall terminate after two years and the term of
office of three others, at the end of four years.
after the first election, the Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and
Government of the Organisation of African Unity shall draw lots to decide the
names of those members referred to in Article 36.
their election, the members of the Commission shall make a solemn declaration to
discharge their duties impartially and faithfully.
In case of death or resignation of a member of the Commission, the Chairman of
the Commission shall immediately inform the Secretary-General of the
Organisation of African Unity, who shall declare the seat vacant from the date
of death or from the date on which the resignation takes effect.
If, in the unanimous opinion of other members of the Commission, a member has
stopped discharging his duties for any reason other than a temporary absence,
the Chairman of the Commission shall inform the Secretary-General of the
Organisation of African Unity, who shall then declare the seat vacant.
In each of the cases anticipated above, the Assembly of Heads of State and
Government shall replace the member whose seat became vacant for the remaining
period of his term unless the period is less than six months.
member of the Commission shall be in office until the date his successor assumes
Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity shall appoint the
Secretary of the Commission. He shall also provide the staff and services.
The Commission shall elect its Chairman and Vice-Chairman for a two year period.
shall be eligible for re-election.
The Commission shall lay down its rules of procedure.
Seven members shall form the quorum.
In case of an equality of votes, the Chairman shall have a casting vote.
The Secretary-General may attend the meetings of the Commission.
shall neither participate in deliberations nor shall he be entitled to vote. The
Chairman of the Commission may, however, invite him to speak.
discharging their duties, members of the Commission shall enjoy diplomatic
privileges and immunities provided For in the General Convention on the
Privileges and Immunities of the Organisation of African Unity.
shall be made for the emoluments and allowances of the members of the Commission
in the Regular Budget of the Organisation of African Unity.
Mandate of the Commission
functions of the Commission shall be-
To promote Human and Peoples' Rights and in particular:
To collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in
the field of human and peoples' rights, organise seminars, symposia and
conferences, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions
concerned with human and peoples' rights, and should the case arise, give more
its views or make recommendations to Governments;
To formulate and lay down, principles and rules aimed at solving legal problems
relating to human and peoples' rights and fundamental freedom upon which African
Governments may base their legislations;
Co-operate with other African and International institutions concerned with
promotion and protection of human and peoples' rights;
Ensure the protection of human and peoples' rights under conditions laid down by
the present Charter.
Interprete all the provisions of the present Charter at the request of a State
Party, an institution of the OAU or an African organisation recognised by the
Perform any other tasks which may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of
State and Government.
Commission may resort to any appropriate method of investigation; it may hear
from the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity or any other
person capable of enlightening it.
a State Party to the present Charter has good reasons to believe that another
State Party to this Charter has violated the provisions of the Charter, it may
draw, by written communication, the attention of that State to the matter. This
communication shall also be addressed to the Secretary-General of the OAU and to
the Chairman of the Commission. Within three months of the receipt of the
communication, the State to which the communication is addressed shall give the
enquiring State, written explanation or statement elucidating the matter. This
should include as much as possible relevant information relating to the laws and
rules of procedure applied and applicable and the redress already given or
course of action available.
within three months from the date on which the original communication is
received by the State to which it is addressed, the issue is not settled to the
satisfaction of the two States involved through bilateral negotiation or by any
other peaceful procedure, either State shall have the right to submit the matter
to the Commission through the Chairman and shall notify the other State
the provisions of Article 47, if a State Party to the present Charter considers
that another State Party has violated the provisions of the Charter, it may
refer the matter directly to the Commission by addressing a communication to the
Chairman, to the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and the
Commission can only deal with a matter submitted to it after making sure that
all local remedies, if they exist, have been exhausted, unless it is obvious to
the Commission that the procedure of achieving these remedies would be unduly
The Commission may ask the States concerned to provide it with all relevant
When the Commission is considering the matter, States concerned may be
represented before it and submit written or oral representations.
having obtained, from the States concerned and from other sources all the
information it deems necessary and after having tried all appropriate means to
reach an amicable solution based on the respect of Human and Peoples' Rights,
the Commission shall prepare, within a reasonable period of time from the
notification referred to in Article 48, a report stating the facts and its
findings. This report shall be sent to the States concerned and communicated to
the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
transmitting its report, the Commission may make to the Assembly of Heads of
State and Government such recommendations as it deems useful.
Commission shall submit to each Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of
State and Government a report on its activities.
Before each Session, the Secretary of the Commission shall make a list of the
communications other than those of States Parties to the present Charter and
transmit them to the members of the Commission, who shall indicate which
communications should be considered by the Commission.
A communication shall be considered by the Commission if a simple majority of
its members so decide.
relating to human and peoples' rights referred to in Article 55 received by the
Commission shall be considered if they:
Are compatible with the Charter of the Organisation of African with the present
Are not written in disparaging or insulting language directed against concerned
and its institutions or to the Organisation of African Unity
Are sent after exhausting local remedies, if any, unless it is obvious that this
procedure is unduly prolonged;
Are submitted within a reasonable period from the time local remedies are
exhausted or from the date the Commission is seized of the matter; and
Do not deal with cases which have been settled by these States involved in
accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, or the
Charter of the Organisation of African Unity or the provisions of the present
to any substantive consideration, all communications shall be brought to the
knowledge of the State concerned by the Chairman of the Commission.
When it appears after deliberations of the Commission that one or more
communications apparently relate to special cases which reveal the existence of
a series of serious or massive violations of human and peoples' rights, the
Commission shall draw the attention of the Assembly of Heads of State and
Government to these special cases.
The Assembly of Heads of State and Government may then request the Commission to
undertake an in-depth study of these cases and make a factual report,
accompanied by its finding and recommendations.
A case of emergency duly noticed by the Commission shall be submitted by the
latter to the Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government who may
request an in-depth study.
All measures taken within the provisions of the present Charter shall remain
confidential until such a time as the Assembly of Heads of State and Government
shall otherwise decide.
However, the report shall be published by the Chairman of the Commission upon
the decision of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
The report on the activities of the Commission shall be published by its
Chairman after it has been considered by the Assembly of Heads of State and
Commission shall draw inspiration from international law on human and peoples'
rights, particularly from the provisions of various African instruments on human
and peoples' rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the
Organisation of African Unity, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other
instruments adopted by the United Nations and by African countries in the field
of human and peoples' rights as well as from the provisions of various
instruments adopted within the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations of
which the parties to the present Charter are members.
Commission shall also take into consideration, as subsidiary measures to
determine the principles of law, other general or special international
conventions, laying down rules expressly recognised by member States of the
Organisation of African Unity, African practices consistent with international
norms on human and peoples' rights, customs generally accepted as law, general
principles of law recognised by African States as well as legal precedents and
State Party shall undertake to submit every two years, from the date the present
Charter comes into force, a report on the legislative or other measures taken
with a view to giving effect to the rights and freedoms recognised and
guaranteed by the present Charter.
The present Charter shall be open to signature, ratification or adherence of the
member states of the Organisation of African Unity.
The instruments of ratification or adherence to the present Charter shall be
deposited with the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity.
The present Charter shall come into force three months after the reception by
the Secretary-General of the instruments of ratification or adherence of a
simple majority of the member states of the Organisation of African Unity.
After the coming into force of the present Charter, members of the Commission
shall be elected in accordance with the relevant Articles of the present
The Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity shall convene the
first meeting of the Commission at the Headquarters of the Organisation within
three months of the constitution of the Commission. Thereafter, the Commission
shall be convened by its Chairman whenever necessary but at least once a year.
each of the States that will ratify or adhere to the present Charter after its
coming into force, the Charter shall take effect three months after the date of
the deposit by that State of its instrument of ratification or adherence.
protocols or agreements may, if necessary, supplement the provisions of the
Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity shall inform member
states of the Organisation of the deposit of each instrument of ratification or
present Charter may be amended if a State Party makes a written request to that
effect to the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity. The
Assembly of Heads of State and Government may only consider the draft amendment
after all the States Parties have been duly informed of it and the Commission
has given its opinion on it at the request of the sponsoring State. The
amendment shall be approved by a simple majority of the States Parties. It shall
come into force for each State which has accepted it in accordance with its
constitutional procedure three months after the Secretary-General has received
notice of the acceptance.