Context and Background
The Organization of African Unity adopted the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Also known as the Banjul Charter) in 1981 and the charter entered into force on 21 October 1986. 21 October is the African Human Rights day. To date, all Member States of the African Union (AU) are party to the charter except the newly established state of South Sudan. The Banjul Charter covers both civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. The charter, furthermore, not only includes rights for individuals but also for peoples. In addition, it also imposes duties, which is unique in international human rights instruments. The instrument is strongly African in focus, aiming to further African values and build on the virtues of African historical traditions, while alleviating human rights violations. The charter is an international legal instrument intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms in Africa.
The charter recognizes what are regarded as universally accepted civil and political rights including the rights to non-discrimination, equality, life and personal intergrity. The charter also recognises freedoms of religion, information and expression, association and assembly, movement, political participation and freedom from slavery and from cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The charter also recognises certain economic, social and cultural rights, and overall the charter is considered to place considerable emphasis on these rights.
The charter recognises right to work, the right to health, the right to education and to development alongside an over-arching prohibition on discrimination based on race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, or political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status. In addition to recognising the individual rights the charter also recognises collective or group rights, or peoples’ rights. The charter awards the family protection by the state (Article 18), while “peoples” have the right to equality, the right to self-determination, to freely dispose of their wealth and national resources, the right to development, the right to peace and security and a generally satisfactory environment.
The organ charged with the mandate to promote and protect human rights is the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with the functions of promoting and protecting the human and peoples’ rights and interpreting the provisions of the charter and any other task assigned to it by the Assembly. The commission is also mandated to collect documents, undertake studies and researches on African challenges in the field of human and peoples’ rights, disseminate information, encourage national and local institutions concerned with human and peoples’ rights and where necessary, give its view or make recommendations to governments. The commission was established in 1987 in Banjul, The Gambia. A protocol to the charter was subsequently adopted in 1998 whereby an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights was to be created. The protocol came into effect on 25 January 2005.
- All Africans are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection of the law.
- All Africans have the right to non-discrimination, equality, life and personal intergrity, liberty and security of person, fair trial, to receive, express and disseminate information and opinions, to property and to education.
- All Africans have the right to freedom of conscience, profession and free practice of religion, freedom of association, assembly, expression, political participation and movement.
- All peoples have a right to economic, social and cultural development and a right to national and international peace.
- African governments shall promote and ensure the popularization of the Banjul Charter through teaching, education and publication.
- Afrcan governments will eliminate all forms of foreign exploitation and will assist all peoples in their liberation struggle against foreign domination in political, economic or cultural context.
- African governments have an obligation to protect and assist the family.
- All African peoples’ are equal, may freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources and have the right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.
- All Africans have a duty to exercise their individual’s rights and freedoms with due regard to the rights of others, collective security, moral and common interest and to serve their national community by placing their physical and intellectual abilities at its service.
- All Africans have a right to freedom from the exploitation and degradation particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading, punishment and treatment.
- African governments will care for the physical and moral health of the family and ensure the protection of the rights of women, children and the disabled.
- All Africans have a right to participate freely in the government of their country, either directly or through freely chosen representatives in accordance with the provisions of the law.
- All Africans have the right to equal access to the public service of their country and to public property and services in strict equality of all persons before the law.
- All Africans also have a duty towards the family and state security, to pay taxes, and to promote the achievement of African unity.