The African Charter on Human and Peoples’Rights, 1981

  • It entered into force on 21 October 1986
  • The Charter contains a long list of rights, (Human and peoples’ rights) covering a wide spectrum not only of civil and political rights, but also of economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Duty towards groups and individual.
  • fundamental human rights stem from the attributes of human beings, which justifies their national and international protection”. (fifth preambular paragraph)


  • Article 27 states: “every individual shall have duties towards his family and society, the State and other legally recognized communities and the international community”.
  • Next, article 28 concerns the individual’s duty towards other individuals. 
  • The African Charter further created the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “to promote human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa” (art. 30).
  • In 1998, the Protocol to the Charter on the Establishment of an African Court of Human Rights was also adopted.


It has the twofold function,

  • first, of promoting human and peoples’ rights, and, (reporting every after two years by state parties)
  • second, of protecting these rights (art. 30), including the right to receive communications both from States and from other sources.

AU Instruments: African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

  • Pioneered HR protection in Africa (EIF in 1986); 53 State members today (2d largest!)
  • Lists rights & duties of individuals and groups

–Integrates full range of C,P,E,S,C rights in 1 doc.

–African-oriented; promotes and protects traditional community values

  • Lack clear definitions; harder to enforce
  • States may not derogate during emergency

–But limitations exist (e.g., right to leave country)