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- Year: 1981
- Language: English
- Document Type: International Treaty
- Topic: Assembly and Protest,Defending Civil Society
AFRICAN (BANJUL) CHARTER ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS
(Adopted 27 June 1981, OAU Doc. CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982), entered into
force 21 October 1986)
The African States members of the Organization of African Unity, parties to the present
convention entitled “African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”,
Recalling Decision 115 (XVI) of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at its
Sixteenth Ordinary Session held in Monrovia, Liberia, from 17 to 20 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
Considering the Charter of the Organization 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”;
Reaffirming the pledge they solemnly made in Article 2 of the said Charter to eradicate all
forms of colonialism from Africa, to coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts
to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa and to promote international cooperation
having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations. and the Universal Declaration of
Taking into consideration the virtues of their historical tradition and the values of African
civilization which should inspire and characterize their reflection on the concept of human
and peoples’ rights;
Recognizing on the one hand, that fundamental human rights stem from the attributes of
human beings which justifies their national and international protection and on the other
2 hand that the reality and respect of peoples rights should necessarily guarantee human
Considering that the enjoyment of rights and freedoms also implies the performance of
duties on the part of everyone; Convinced that it is henceforth essential to pay a 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 ia a guarantee
for the enjoyment of civil and political rights;
Conscious 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, color, sex. language, religion or political opinions;
Reaffirming their adherence to the principles of human and peoples’ rights and freedoms
contained in the declarations, conventions and other instrument adopted by the
Organization of African Unity, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and the United
Firmly convinced of their duty to promote and protect human and people’ rights and
freedoms taking into account the importance traditionally attached to these rights and
freedoms in Africa;
Have agreed as follows:
Part I: Rights and Duties
Chapter I: Human and Peoples’ Rights
The Member States of the Organization of African Unity parties to the present Charter
shall recognize the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter and shall
undertake to adopt legislative or other measures to give effect to them.
Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized
and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic
group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social
origin, fortune, birth or other status.
1. Every individual shall be equal before the law.
2. Every individual shall be entitled to equal protection of the law.
Human 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 right.
Every 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.
Every 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.
1. Every individual shall have the right to have his cause heard. This comprises: (a) the
right to an appeal to competent national organs against acts of violating his
fundamental rights as recognized and guaranteed by conventions, laws, regulations
and customs in force; (b) the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty by a
competent court or tribunal; (c) the right to defense, including the right to be
defended by counsel of his choice; (d) the right to be tried within a reasonable time by
an impartial court or tribunal.
2. 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.
4 Freedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No
one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of
1. Every individual shall have the right to receive information.
2. Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his opinions within
1. Every individual shall have the right to free association provided that he abides by
2. Subject to the obligation of solidarity provided for in 29 no one may be compelled to
join an association.
Every individual shall have the right to assemble freely with others. The exercise of this
right shall be subject only to necessary restrictions provided for by law in particular those
enacted in the interest of national security, the safety, health, ethics and rights and
freedoms of others.
1. Every individual shall have the right to freedom of movement and residence within
the borders of a State provided he abides by the law.
2. 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.
3. Every individual shall have the right, when persecuted, to seek and obtain asylum in
other countries in accordance with laws of those countries and international
4. 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.
5 5. The mass expulsion of non-nationals shall be prohibited. Mass expulsion shall be that
which is aimed at national, racial, ethnic or religious groups.
1. 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
the provisions of the law.
2. Every citizen shall have the right of equal access to the public service of his country.
3. Every individual shall have the right of access to public property and services in strict
equality of all persons before the law.
The 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.
Every individual shall have the right to work under equitable and satisfactory conditions,
and shall receive equal pay for equal work.
1. Every individual shall have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and
2. 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
1. Every individual shall have the right to education.
2. Every individual may freely, take part in the cultural life of his community.
3. The promotion and protection of morals and traditional values recognized by the
6 community shall be the duty of the State.
1. 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 moral.
2. The State shall have the duty to assist the family which is the custodian or morals and
traditional values recognized by the community.
3. 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.
4. The aged and the disabled shall also have the right to special measures of protection
in keeping with their physical or moral needs.
All 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.
1. All peoples shall have the 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.
2. Colonized or oppressed peoples shall have the right to free themselves from the bonds
of domination by resorting to any means recognized by the international community.
3. 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.
1. 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.
2. In case of spoliation the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful
recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation.
3. The free disposal of wealth and natural resources shall be exercised without prejudice
to the obligation of promoting international economic cooperation based on mutual
respect, equitable exchange and the principles of international law.
4. 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.
5. States parties to the present Charter shall undertake to eliminate all forms of foreign
economic exploitation particularly that practiced by international monopolies so as to
enable their peoples to fully benefit from the advantages derived from their national
1. 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.
2. States shall have the duty, individually or collectively, to ensure the exercise of the
right to development.
1. 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 Organization of African Unity shall
govern relations between States.
2. For the purpose of strengthening peace, solidarity and friendly relations, States
parties to the present Charter shall ensure that: (a) any individual enjoying the right
of asylum under 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; (b) 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.
All peoples shall have the right to a general satisfactory environment favorable to their
8 Article 25
States parties to the present Charter shall have the duty to promote and ensure through
teaching, education and publication, the respect of the rights and freedoms contained in the
present Charter and to see to it that these freedoms and rights as well as corresponding
obligations and duties are understood.
States 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 freedoms
guaranteed by the present Charter.
Chapter II: Duties
1. Every individual shall have duties towards his family and society, the State and other
legally recognized communities and the international community.
2. The rights and freedoms of each individual shall be exercised with due regard to the
rights of others, collective security, morality and common interest.
Every 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.
The individual shall also have the duty:
1. 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
2. To serve his national community by placing his physical and intellectual abilities at its
3. Not to compromise the security of the State whose national or resident he is;
4. To preserve and strengthen social and national solidarity, particularly when the
latter is threatened;
5. To preserve and strengthen the national independence and the territorial integrity of
his country and to contribute to its defense in accordance with the law;
6. To work to the best of his abilities and competence, and to pay taxes imposed by law
in the interest of the society;
7. 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;
8. To contribute to the best of his abilities, at all times and at all levels, to the promotion
and achievement of African unity.
Part II: Measures of Safeguard
Chapter I: Establishment and Organization of the African
Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
An African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, hereinafter called “the
Commission”, shall be established within the Organization of African Unity to promote
human and peoples’ rights and ensure their protection in Africa.
1. 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.
2. The members of the Commission shall serve in their personal capacity.
10 Article 32
The Commission shall not include more than one national of the same state.
The 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
Each State party to the present Charter may not nominate more than two candidates. The
candidates must have the nationality of one of the States party to the present Charter.
When two candidates are nominated by a State, one of them may not be a national of that
1. The Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity shall invite States parties
to the present Charter at least four months before the elections to nominate
2. The Secretary General of the Organization 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.
The members of the Commission shall be elected for a six year period and shall be eligible
for 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
Immediately after the first election, the Chairman of the Assembly of Heads of State and
Government of the Organization of African Unity shall draw lots to decide the names of
those members referred to in Article 36.
After their election, the members of the Commission shall make a solemn declaration to
discharge their duties impartially and faithfully.
11 Article 39
1. 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 Organization of
African Unity, who shall declare the seat vacant from the date of death or from the
date on which the resignation takes effect.
2. 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 Organization
of African Unity, who shall then declare the seat vacant.
3. 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.
Every member of the Commission shall be in office until the date his successor assumes
The Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity shall appoint the Secretary of
the Commission. He shall also provide the staff and services necessary for the effective
discharge of the duties of the Commission. The Organization of African Unity shall bear
the costs of the staff and services.
1. The Commission shall elect its Chairman and Vice Chairman for a two-year period.
They shall be eligible for re-election.
2. The Commission shall lay down its rules of procedure.
3. Seven members shall form the quorum.
4. In case of an equality of votes, the Chairman shall have a casting vote.
5. The Secretary General may attend the meetings of the Commission. He shall not
participate in deliberations nor shall he be entitled to vote. The Chairman of the
Commission may, however, invite him to speak.
12 In 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 Organization of African Unity.
Provision shall be made for the emoluments and allowances of the members of the
Commission in the Regular Budget of the Organization of African Unity.
Chapter II — Mandate of the Commission
The functions of the Commission shall be:
1. To promote Human and Peoples’ Rights and in particular:
(a) To collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African problems in the
field of human and peoples’ rights, organize seminars, symposia and conferences,
disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with
human and peoples’ rights, and should the case arise, give its views or make
recommendations to Governments.
(b) To formulate and lay down, principles and rules aimed at solving legal problems
relating to human and peoples’ rights and fundamental freedoms upon which African
Governments may base their legislations.
(c) Co-operate with other African and international institutions concerned with the
promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights.
2. Ensure the protection of human and peoples’ rights under conditions laid down by
the present Charter.
3. Interpret all the provisions of the present Charter at the request of a State party, an
institution of the OAU or an African Organization recognized by the OAU.
4. Perform any other tasks which may be entrusted to it by the Assembly of Heads of
State and Government.
Chapter III — Procedure of the Commission
13 Article 46
The Commission may resort to any appropriate method of investigation; it may hear from
the Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity or any other person capable of
Communication from States
If 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.
If 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 States involved.
Notwithstanding the provisions of 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 Organization of African Unity and the State concerned.
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 prolonged.
1. The Commission may ask the States concerned to provide it with all relevant
2. When the Commission is considering the matter, States concerned may be
represented before it and submit written or oral representation.
After 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 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.
While transmitting its report, the Commission may make to the Assembly of Heads of State
and Government such recommendations as it deems useful.
The Commission shall submit to each ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State
and Government a report on its activities.
1. 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.
2. A communication shall be considered by the Commission if a simple majority of its
members so decide.
15 Article 56
Communications relating to human and peoples’ rights referred to in 55 received by the
Commission, shall be considered if they:
1. Indicate their authors even if the latter request anonymity,
2. Are compatible with the Charter of the Organization of African Unity or with the
3. Are not written in disparaging or insulting language directed against the State
concerned and its institutions or to the Organization of African Unity,
4. Are not based exclusively on news discriminated through the mass media,
5. Are sent after exhausting local remedies, if any, unless it is obvious that this
procedure is unduly prolonged,
6. 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
7. 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
Organization of African Unity or the provisions of the present Charter.
Prior to any substantive consideration, all communications shall be brought to the
knowledge of the State concerned by the Chairman of the Commission.
1. 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
2. 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 findings and recommendations.
3. 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
16 request an in-depth study.
1. 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.
2. However, the report shall be published by the Chairman of the Commission upon the
decision of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
3. 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 Government.
Chapter IV — Applicable Principles
The 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 Organization 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 Specialized Agencies
of the United Nations of which the parties to the present Charter are members.
The 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 recognized by member states of the Organization of African Unity, African
practices consistent with international norms on human and people’s rights, customs
generally accepted as law, general principles of law recognized by African states as well as
legal precedents and doctrine.
Each 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 recognized and guaranteed by the present Charter.
17 Article 63
1. The present Charter shall be open to signature, ratification or adherence of the
states of the Organization of African Unity.
2. The instruments of ratification or adherence to the present Charter shall be deposited
with the Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity.
3. 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 Organization of African Unity.
Part III: General Provisions
1. 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 Charter.
2. The Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity shall convene the first
meeting of the Commission at the Headquarters of the Organization 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.
For 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.
Special protocols or agreements may, if necessary, supplement the provisions of the present
The Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity shall inform member states of
the Organization of the deposit of each instrument of ratification or adherence.
The present Charter may be amended if a State party makes a written request to that effect
to the Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity. The Assembly of Heads of
State and Government may only consider the draft amendment after all the States parties
18 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.
Adopted by the eighteenth Assembly of Heads of State and Government June 1981 – Nairobi,