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The Commission

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is composed of 11 members.
Its mandate includes:
• Promotion of human and peoples’ rights through research and education activities, articulation of rules on legal questions, and cooperation with other African and international institutions concerned with human and peoples’ rights;
• Interpreting provisions of the Charter at the request of a State Party, an institution of the African Union, or an African organisation recognised by the Union;
• Hearing inter-State communications about violations of the rights set out in the Charter;
• Hearing communications brought by individuals and specified non-State actors, e.g. non-govern-mental organisations (NGOs), concerning violations of the rights in the Charter.
It is not necessary for your government to have formally recognised the competence of the Commission.
Communications must be made within a reasonable timeframe after the exhaustion of local remedies.

One advantage of the African Charter is that, under Articles 60 and 61, the Commission has the mandate to go beyond the Charter rights, and to look at international standards. There is consequently hardly a single right at the international level that cannot be subject to protection in the African system.

For more detailed information about rules for making a complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the procedure for the determination of the complaint, other resources and a model complaint form, click here to go to the excellent Litigating Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Legal Practitioners Dossier released by the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), at p.147.

The Court

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has recently been established, through the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights. The  Court has a broader mandate than the Commission: under Article 3 its jurisdiction extends to all cases and disputes submitted to it concerning the interpretation and application of the Charter, the Protocol establishing the Court and any other relevant human rights instrument ratified by the States concerned. Depending on the Court’s interpretation of ‘any other relevant human rights instruments’, it may apply any other universal, regional or sub-regional treaties that the State in question has ratified, such as, for example, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which includes substantial provisions on the right to education.

The Court will consider cases referred to it by the ACHPR, by States Parties to the Protocol and, wherever a State Party has accepted its jurisdiction, by individuals and NGOs. The following countries have ratified the Protocol and thus accepted the Court’s jurisdiction; Algeria, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Comoros, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.
Unlike the decisions of the ACHPR and the Committee on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child, the rulings of the Court will be binding.
It should be noted that although the Court is officially established, it has yet to adopt its Rules of Procedure so is not ready to receive petitions.